Paper Jam

Good morning, excuse me, I've some troubles with the printer, was the first I heard the lady at the baggage drop off say. Don't worry, we have time and it doesn't look very busy was my quick reply. In fact we were the only ones. A couple of minutes later the printer was fixed and the baggage drop off procedure proceeded. A little later the lovely lady showed a long strip of baggage labels, oops it seems it's printing too many now. There must still have been some in the memory. She completed here work, we dropped off our snowboards at the oversized baggage counter and we continued thru security, had some breakfast and did some last minute shopping before boarding the plane.

While waiting for departure we saw our snowboards getting on the plane, what is always a comforting idea. When we were about to leave the captain came with an announcement that it would take five to ten minutes more, because someone had checked baggage, but didn't board the plane and for security reasons the baggage needed to get removed from the plane. However due to the short flight time we would still arrive on time in Helsinki.

The flight was smooth and after a nap we safely arrived in Helsinki and proceeded to the baggage claim. Since our baggage was priority tagged we expected it soon and indeed three out of the four items showed up quickly. The last piece kept on missing and we proceeded to the lost baggage counter. Having experience with loosing baggage helps in this case. Checking the baggage tags reveiled the problem. One of the bags, the missing one, was tagged with the wrong name and destination. I quickly recalled the printer problem and the spitting out of too many labels. I guess it was the bag of the person that never showed up at the gate. Filling in some paper work we continued our destination. Usually lost baggage shows up in about 24 hours.

About 24 hours later the web based tracking systems still didn't show any signs of delivery. The baggage had not been located yet and a phone call reveiled the same information: 'We have actually no idea where the bag is and it could very well be that you never get it anymore'.

Usually I'm quite casual on lost or forgotten baggage, because if necessary I can always buy some new stuff. Just make sure to carry you creditcard is my motto. However the bag contained snowboard gear and now at the end of the season what is still in the store is either too ugly or a very small or large size. It's very hard to find replacement. For instance I haven't found a fitting pair of cloves yet, an essential item.

So you can see, a simple paper jam will probably have quite an impact on my vacation. The one I decided to be a real vacation and really skip work for a change.

My PC is ill

About a year ago I was, like so many I was very enthusiastic about the upcoming Windows 7. Right from the first beta I love the product, it was stable, solid, fast and did what it was supposed to do. Just before the official launch I even participated in a Microsoft recommendation video. Shortly after the official release it was also a great moment to invest in a nice new fast little laptop.

Now it's a year later and I've used Windows 7 with pleasure for my daily work. It's still a great, but installing and uninstalled several applications, receiving numerous updates does have an effect on the product. Boot times are going up, Shutdown regularly starts to fail, Wifi now sometimes has troubles connecting and it starts to feel a bit sluggish.

Some of the more geeky people will now recommend to do a clean install, but I really hate doing those.  Even when keeping most of my stuff in the cloud it's still to cumbersome. I still need to install alternative browsers, IM apps, Bookmark syncs, Adobe readers and many other things I always forget.

However I do need some medicine to boost performance, boot times and give my PC a good tune up. Microsoft bring on Service Pack 1 for Windows 7.

... alternatively I could have listened to my mom and use an Apple to fight my illness...

HTML 5, Flash and SilverLight

First I wanted to call this article five HTML flashes of SilverLight, but that probably would not have been understood. I wasn't very about writing this either, because I'm in general not a big fan of browser plugins and I do like standards. However we are at a point where the web start to fragment and it's worth sharing my opinion.

Years ago the abilities of HTML in the different browsers was very limited and Flash leveraged this very well by provided richer user experiences, more dynamic pages and most important video. Today many of the dynamic user experiences can also be done with Javascript and AJAX, however video is still a challenge. Flash is more and more used for advertisements and is not really adding to the core web functionality anymore.

A few years ago Microsoft started with SilverLight competing with Flash. Microsoft leverages the huge number of .NET developers that now can easily apply their skills on the dynamic web. This combined with the improved abilities to create line of business applications is now bringing Windows to the web. Looking at Microsofts own web applications it's all about copying Windows to the web. I'm not sure if desktop applications should use the same patterns as web applications, but that is a nice topic for an other article.

HTML 5 the next version of HTML does provide a nice new standard for building dynamic and media rich applications. It's still in its infancy and only a few browsers provide support, but has a clear future in providing the future application platform.

In short, three compelling technologies, each with different advantages, disadvantages and adoption rates. Today choosing the right technology really depends on your solution in combination with your ability to either distribute a plug-in or enforce a specific browser. It will be very difficult to make the right choice!

It's all going to be even worse with the upcoming Apple iPad, the most desirable tablet you can imagine. It really doesn't matter how great competitive devices are going to be. Everybody wants an iPad anyway. The iPad will be a great device to give a way in competitions, as sales incentives etc... just because everybody wants to have one. However your favorite browser plugin will not work on the device!

Just imagine some of the following:
1. Your business is giving away iPads as a price, don't you want your website to work on the device?
2. You are in charge of deciding a new SaaS solution and your boss is proudly showing off his new iPad gadget.

It doesn't really matter anymore how great Flash and SilverLight are... when they are not supported on the iPad, their use will get limited.

The Desktop will live on

Recently there has been some discussion in the blogosphere on the relevance of the Desktop. It started with  John Herlihy claiming that the desktop is irrelevant in three years. I will give you my ideas on the future of the desktop too.

For many years I actually believed that the desktop was going to disappear. The main reasons where the lack of portability and the inconvenience of having multiple devices and the fragmented information sources. My way of solving this was a single laptop, that over time got smaller and smaller. It became my single source of information and I accepted the disadvantages of computing power and screen real estate.

This worked all very well, until advances in technology solved the single source of information problems. Today with an abundance of cloud based solutions and information storage there is absolutely no need to have everything on one single device. it's a lot safer and much more convenient to have all your information stored in a single place, accessible from anywhere at anytime.

Since all information is stored in a single place, all you need a device to access and use the information. This actually opened the door for more specialized devices, smart phones, slades, tablets, netbooks, laptops and desktops are just a few examples of devices to be used. All have their specific use, some are great to constantly carry along, others for trips and some are perfect when you are at home. Screen sizes vary and this also brings specific usages.

Desktops are here to stay, it's one of the many devices we will use for specific purposes. In my situation I've recently bought a 27" iMac and nothing beats the enormous screen real estate. 

Image credit: Geoff Stearns

Wordpress versus Blogger

I'm a fan of simple and powerful products and services. In this article I use Wordpress and Blogger as examples to illustrate how two products can differ in providing the same core functionality.

This blog is hosted by Blogger and that is not without a reason. Blogger suits me because it's so damn simple. The post editor has a minimal number of features and they are more than enough.

Post Editor in Blogger

The image above shows the post editor with even all post options expanded, and to be honest, I've never used anything different than the defaults.

The great alternative for Blogger is Wordpress. It's used by many (most) of the big blogs and provides probably 20 times more functionality then Blogger. I also occasionally post articles in a few Wordpress hosted blogs and get frustrated every time, because it's intimidating and I've no idea what all the functions mean and it makes me feel stupid. Any product that alienates from their users and makes them feel stupid is on a wrong path.

I also realize that there are many very smart people that understand all the options and are actually use them. For those people Wordpress is the right product.

Comparing products is useless when the products clearly target different users. Make sure you know your user and target your products and services on their needs.

It is all about the Cloud

Last week Mr. Steve Ballmer spoke about Microsofts commitment on the cloud. In itself this is nothing new, because it's a logical continuation of outsourcing complex and non core business related activities for the customers. I like to look at cloud computing, Software as a Service and all new buzz words from a customer perspective. Customers are seeking:

1. Convenience instead of sophistication, for a large part as a result that IT did not always deliver on its promise. Solutions need to be easy, simple and have a quick return on investment.

2. Solutions driving their top line instead of optimizing their bottom line. In the last 2 decades the focus has been on optimizing business processes and efficiency, now customers are seeking how IT can help to generate business or adapt to new business models.

Looking a the 5 dimensions Mr. Steve Ballmer mentioned in his speech from this perspective we get:

1. The cloud creates opportunities and responsibilities. The main customer opportunity is the collaborative nature of the cloud. It's a platform that makes it easy to share and exchange information and work with people from other organizations. The key responsibility for the vendor is to be a trusted partner and provide a reliable and secure environment that provides the capabilities to collaborate.

2. The cloud learns and helps you learn, decide and take action. I find it difficult to translated this statement into an advantage for the customer, unless it is referring to real-time collaboration between different organizations.

3. The cloud enhances your social and professional interactions. For long the impression was that all the social computing initiatives were just entertainment and didn't really provide any business value. I've always believed that social interactions and business interactions are closely related. Doing business is for a large part dealing with social interaction. The blurring separation between social and professional interactions does however require new infrastructures and collaborative environments.

4. The cloud wants smarter devices. It's NOT the cloud that wants smarter devices, it's the customer that wants to work anywhere and anytime! Different specific devices make this more convenient and the cloud can provide an infrastructure to centralize information and make it accessible to a wide variety of devices. However software development can't keep up with the daily emerge of new devices, unless we all adopt the web and HTML 5 as the new platform. The battle between propriety operating systems is going to slowdown the overall adoption of cloud computing. Only the large IT providers have sufficient scale to offer choice to their customers.

5. The cloud drives server advances that drive the cloud. The customer really doesn't care about this! It's like electricity from the wall, it always works and that is all I need to know.

Mr. Steve Ballmer, I'm available for some personal additional free advice.

Image credit: Wendy Longo