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July 17, 2009  2:39 PM

Nettops need more power?

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

At theONbutton, Neil Berman is less than thrilled by the low processing power of nettops:

Whilst we are eternally grateful to Asus for the original EEE PC and the Netbook offspring it spawned, why do OEMs continue to think it’s OK to package an Intel Atom with GMA950 graphics in a home PC?

Apart from the potential electricity savings why would a sane person ever say, “I’d sure like to have an underpowered home PC which will struggle to play YouTube vids”. And given how much longer this PC would have to be powered-on to complete tasks which an Intel CULV chip could complete in a fraction of the time, are there really power savings there at all?

July 16, 2009  12:33 PM

Your typing errors = revenue stream for ISPs

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

Our Word of the Day today is DNS redirection, a hot topic since Comcast announced they’d be testing the practice under the name “Domain Name Helper Service,” in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, Utah, and Washington.

Here’s Karl Bode’s analysis:

While ISPs enjoy painting the services as ultra-helpful consumer-centered affairs, their primary purpose is to deliver a new revenue stream to ISPs driven by your crappy typing skills.

June 8, 2009  7:33 PM

I’m still waiting for my electronic newspaper delivery

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

I’ve been looking at getting a definition of  e-reader online for a while now. We had definitions for e-book, e-paper,  and electronic newspaper. But we didn’t have one for e-reader. That one seemed to be a little slippery… For example, is an e-reader a dedicated device or the associated software? (Because, after all, you can download software to read books on your iPhone.) Anyway, every time I started trying to pin it down, that slippery one slithered to the bottom of the pile.

But there’s so much going on around e-readers, e-books and newspapers these days, the pressure got to be too much and I finally came out with a definition. On Friday, we featured e-reader  as the Word of the Day. Right down to the end of the afternoon, though, the discussion continued as to what, exactly, we were trying to define. And what should we call it? Some people are calling them e-book readers but, you know, you can read lots of stuff other than books on them. Newspapers, for example. E-reader displays are getting bigger, I think at least partially to be more suitable for newspaper display. But they still don’t look like this:

What about the standalone electronic newspaper? Will that ever come to fruition? I started looking at our definition last week and wondered if I should edit it into past tense. I’m finding it hard to let that dream go. I might eventually give in and embrace the idea of reading my newspapers on a rigid, smaller-than-newsprint display — but not if I have a choice. I really want the Gyricon version. Can’t someone make it?

It must be about 10 years ago that site director Margaret Rouse and I were first discussing e-readers. Or e-books, which we called them at the time, because that was their sole use. (Although, of course, even then there was that issue of whether the e-book was the device. Or the content. Or the application.) I remember we were pretty excited about the idea of a backlit book that we could read in the dark. Probably goes back to our childhoods, reading books under the covers with flashlights long after “lights out.”

Lounging with newspapers and tea is a sacred weekend morning ritual around my house and I’m attached to the whole experience. Arranging the sections in the required sequence, folding the pages to read the articles, gauging the read to come by the size of the “whump” it makes as the whole thing lands on the breakfast or coffee table.  A lot of the experience seems to be created by the format. (I don’t imagine, for example, that dropping my e-reader on the table will make a satisfying whump.)

Nevertheless, back those years ago, when I read about a foldable, rollable, single-sheet electronic newspaper more-or-less the size of a current newspaper page, I was intrigued. Add the capacity for wireless connectivity, full-color, and multimedia and I can hardly wait. So why do I have to?

I believe we have the technology. For crying out loud, they’ve finally made my flying car… surely someone can make me an electronic newspaper?

~ Ivy Wigmore

April 20, 2009  3:05 PM

Selling the smart grid

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

“It turns out customers don’t actually want utilities to turn off their appliances.”
~ Mark Farber, Photon Consultants

Well, there’s a shock. In her post on Earth2Tech.com, Josie Garthwaite writes about the challenge of convincing consumers that smart grid technologies are actually in their best interests. Here’s an excerpt:

Making the smart grid’s most basic elements — two-way communication between utilities and energy users, advanced control systems and smart devices — appealing to consumers could be key to its success. So how can smart grid backers make the investment look more like a boon, and less like a boondoggle for those on the other side of the meter?

For many utilities, adding information technology and two-way controls to electronic devices and appliances represents a potential gold mine of efficiency and a workaround for building expensive new power plants. As Farber put it, “A button is as close to a dispatchable power plant that you can imagine.”

For consumers, however, the benefits of the smart grid have proven to be less obvious, despite promises that it will offer more insight and control over their energy use (and spending). “It turns out customers don’t actually want utilities to turn off their appliances,” said Farber, referring to the two-way control technology that would allow a utility to cut power use when demand strains supply.

If that translates to my espresso machine sputtering to a halt when I need it most… I’m not sure I could be convinced.

April 19, 2009  8:47 PM

So I updated the IT humor guide…

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

Here it is, Sunday afternoon. I thought I’d just pop into my office (Yes, that’s one of the perils of working from home.) and finish up a definition for IP surveillance, maybe update the blog. But first, I checked the editors’ mailbox. And there was a note from a reader suggesting his Web series for inclusion in our Fast Guide to IT Humor. The series was pretty funny, I thought, so I went into our content management app to edit it into the guide. And there went my afternoon. “While I’m in here,” I thought, back all those hours ago, “I’ll check the links for rot.” Oh my. There are a lot of links. I’m happy to say that most of the URLs still worked but even whatever fraction of the links it was that were bad took a while to fix/remove.

Okay. In the interests of full disclosure, I have to admit that I did a little revisiting. I mean, how is one to resist trying to find out what Jessica Simpson has to say about “Open source routers?” (They’re HOT, apparently.)  And there’s much more. Much, much more.

Have you got any favorite IT humor sites? Let me know. Maybe next Sunday, I’ll update again…

April 19, 2009  5:29 PM

Mark Day — Smiley intervention

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/NVOFmu2ZIqI" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

April 19, 2009  5:09 PM

Wes Borg — Internet Help Desk

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/1LLTsSnGWMI" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

March 24, 2009  1:16 PM

The simple case for cloud computing

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

Eric Stahl from Salesforce.com sent us this video explaining cloud computing in straightforward terms.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/ae_DKNwK_ms" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

See also:

In her Overheard in the Blogosphere cloud archives, Margaret Rouse includes a cloud computing glossary of cloud computing terms.

March 2, 2009  1:56 PM

Closed-circuit TV “a high-tech Panopticon”

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore
In The Guardian, Paul Lewis writes about Westminister’s CCTV system: “Using the latest remote technology, the cameras rotate 360 degrees, 365 days a year, providing a hi-tech version of what the 18th century English philosopher Jeremy Bentham conceived as the ‘Panopticon’ – a space where people can be constantly monitored but never know when they are being watched.”

I remember the Panopticon from Foucault’s Discipline and Punish. (Disclosure: I read it for a philosophy course.) Foulcault believed that the effect of the Panopticon — if not the precise design — was pervasive throughout modern culture.

From Wikipedia:
The Panopticon is a type of prison building designed by English philosopher and social theorist Jeremy Bentham in 1785. The concept of the design is to allow an observer to observe (-opticon) all (pan-) prisoners without the prisoners being able to tell whether they are being watched, thereby conveying what one architect has called the “sentiment of an invisible omniscience.”

250px-Panopticon.jpg Bentham himself described the Panopticon as “a new mode of obtaining power of mind over mind, in a quantity hitherto without example.”

… Many modern prisons built today are built in a “podular” design influenced by the Panopticon design, in intent and basic organization if not in exact form. As compared to traditional “cellblock” designs, in which rectangular buildings contain tiers of cells one atop the other in front of a walkway along which correctional officers patrol, modern prisons are often decentralized and contain triangular or trapezoidal-shaped housing units known as “pods” or “modules” designed to hold between sixteen and fifty prisoners each. In these designs, cells are laid out in three or fewer tiers arrayed around either a central control station or a desk which affords a single correctional officer full view of all cells within either a 270° or 180° field of view (180° is considered a closer level of supervision). Control of cell doors, CCTV monitors, and communications are all conducted from the control station.

February 28, 2009  8:14 PM

Would a results-only work environment make you more productive?

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

Last Friday we featured results-only work environment (ROWE) as our word of the day and I felt stirring within me feelings I’d almost forgotten. Feelings of hope, glimmers of possibility. Maybe even sanity…  I was thinking back to the first of January, when I was inspired by a fresh new year and a fresh new approach to work and — dare I say it? — work/life balance. For some reason, the first week of January everything seemed to be going to heck in a handbasket. Crises to deal with, fires to put out and damage to control for one thing or another. And somehow, the fresh energy of the new year had gotten stale. But then I was writing about the ROWE and there it was again…

Here’s how Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson describe the ROWE to Tim Ferris:

In a ROWE, each person is free to do whatever they want, whenever they want, as long as the work gets done. Currently, there are two authentic ROWEs—Fortune 100 retailer Best Buy Co, Inc. and J. A. Counter & Associates, a small brokerage firm in New Richmond, WI. At both organizations, the old rules that govern a traditional work environment—core hours, “face time,” pointless meetings, etc.—have been replaced by one rule: focus only on results.

Selling employees on the ROWE concept is not difficult. The issue is…

How to convince your boss

On their website, Ressler and Thompson have a pretty compelling list of reasons that your boss should be interested in giving the ROWE thing a try:

  • PRODUCTIVITY – Get more work from existing workforce now
  • RETENTION – Keep the talent you want; say goodbye to the talent that isn’t producing results
  • ATTRACTION – Be a magnet for the best talent from all generations
  • ELIMINATION OF WASTEFUL PRACTICES – Elimination of unnecessary tasks and processes; communication becomes more efficient and effective
  • A WORKFORCE THAT’S FLUID, FLEXIBLE AND ACCOUNTABLE – Ability to perform in a more agile, 24/7 manner with clear, measurable goals for every employee
  • OPTIMIZATION OF SPACE – No need for 1:1 workspace requirements or hoteling programs
  • LIFE BALANCE FOR ALL – Environment that is inclusive and fair without the headache of managing a flexible work program
  • IMPROVED EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT/MORALE/LOYALTY – Happy employees boost the bottom line, are more dedicated and produce better results
  • GO GREEN – Reduce your impact on the environment by creating a culture where everyone uses common sense about where they get work done – whether from home, a coffee shop or library. Wherever. Whenever.

Ok now, Tim Ferris is the guy that wrote The 4-Hour Work Week so he may take an especially rosy view. I have no illusions that I could do my current job in four hours a day — let alone four hours a week. Still, Ferris raises some good points and has some good advice. For example, he suggests that if you’re trying to talk your boss into a ROWE, you sell her on a trial period instead of a complete revolution. Theory is that’s all it’ll take to convince her of the benefits.

That said, well, here it is lateish on a Saturday afternoon. And I’m tying up loose ends for work, posting to my work blog. Thinking back, again, to New Year’s Day, when I was doing the exact same thing. But, to be honest, I’m kind of in the mood for it. Come Tuesday afternoon, I might not be. And which time am I likely to get more done? I can tell you, unequivocally, that I’m at least twice as productive when the stars align properly and I actually want to work. Especially if I don’t flog myself to sit like a lump in front of the keyboard when the energy just isn’t there but, instead, take a little time to recharge.

And now my memory wanders a few years further back. I was on the phone with Paul Gillin just before I signed my first contract with TechTarget. We were talking about what the terms of my contract, what I would be expected to accomplish. “And beyond that,” he said, “We don’t care what you do. You do the work and you manage your own time.” Eminently sensible, I thought.

Gillin went on to say that they had no issues with people working from home. Then he chuckled — and, Reader, it was an evil chuckle — and explained that giving people control of their own time was absolutely the way to get the most work out of them.

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