CIO Symmetry

July 29, 2008  5:54 PM

Will Mobile mania go the way of the Marlboro Man?

Kristen Caretta Kristen Caretta Profile: Kristen Caretta

This just in: Mobile phones may cause cancerous brain tumors.

How many times have we heard that? Over the years, as mobile phones became increasingly popular, studies have linked them to cancer and then further studies have extinguished the fear. Most recently Dr. Ronald Herberman, the University of Pittsburgh’s Cancer Institute director, has sent out a memo to his staff members warning them of the possible link between mobile phone use and brain cancer development.

Dr. Herberman has also compiled tips to help you limit your exposure to electromagnetic radiation emitted from mobile phones. The list includes switching ears while talking and avoiding mobile phone use in public where you could possibly harm others (secondhand electromagnetic radiation?).

To those of you who scoff at the cancer possibility and were first in line for the new iPhone, take a second and think about it like this: Could this be another ‘Marlboro man’ situation?

Don’t get me wrong, I won’t be ditching my mobile link to the world anytime soon, and I wouldn’t expect you to. Even if we wanted to, how could we? We’re busy, we’re constantly on the go and so is everyone else. Plus, you’ve seen some of the newer phones (music, downloads, mirrors!). They’re cool and everybody’s doing it. What’s the problem?

Up until the second half of the 20th Century, the adverse health affects of cigarettes weren’t widely known. And even after the studies started rolling in (and continued plowing right over Joe Camel), people continue to smoke. Oh right, they have nicotine. They’re addictive. Isn’t it a stretch to compare them to mobile phones?

Have you ever heard the slang term crackberry? (crack cocaine+BlackBerry, you get the picture).

We all rely on our mobile phones so much, it would be almost impossible to remove them from our lives completely – cancer or no cancer.

Then again, it could be one of those “don’t sit so close to the TV” type deals. Either way, I’m sure Dr. Herberman will let us know. Or at least send it out in a memo to his staff.

July 28, 2008  1:00 PM

Weekly Round-up

Glen Weaver Profile: The Weave

Sunday is the last holdout of newspapers. Suffering under tight budgets and diminished staff sizes, papers of all sizes still seem to hold it together on the day of rest. Working on a “Sunday story” means a reporter is putting a little something extra into the job. Yesterday was one of those good Sundays.

The New York Times finally got around to reviewing – and panning – Sarah Lacy’s Once You’re Lucky, Twice You’re Good: The Rebirth of Silicon Valley and the Rise of Web 2.0. Reviewer Katie Hafner has at Lacy, essentially calling her book out for a lack of seriousness and for writing incomplete sentences.

I didn’t love Lacy’s book by any means, and said as much when it was released in May. But Hafner’s review shoots low. Not as low as The New Yorker saying Mamma Mia! could legally be considered torture. But low enough that we wonder where Hafner picked up that chip on her shoulder.

Also in the Times, tech reporter Joe Nocera makes a pretty good case for why Apple should say whether or not Steve Jobs is deathly ill. Then, all the way at the end, Nocera breaks the news that Jobs isn’t kicking off anytime soon. Best part: Jobs personally calling Nocera to say the reporter is “a slime bucket who gets most of his facts wrong.” It’s not entirely clear if he is joking.

Over at the San Francisco Chronicle, Jaxon Van Derbeken digs in for a look at Terry Childs, the city network administrator accused of locking his bosses and colleagues out of the city’s wide area network. Turns out Childs is some sort of Cisco all-star. And he has some ammunition that he shouldn’t have, being a convicted felon and all, prosecutors say.

Not sure if this is supposed to be open to the public, but Boston Globe business reporter Hiawatha Bray has set up a Facebook group for Globe employees to trade tech tips. So far Bray is the only contributor, urging his fellow reporters to find sources through StumbleUpon. The real fun here is perusing Globe reporters’ Facebook pages.

July 28, 2008  12:58 PM

Microsoft: Kicking SaaS and changing names

Kristen Caretta Kristen Caretta Profile: Kristen Caretta

I brushed up on SaaS (Software as a Service) knowledge today.

After reading through all the SaaS articles on my site, I continued on to Google. Amongst the many pages of SaaS, there was a Microsoft site introducing something a little different.

Microsoft had changed the way it spoke of SaaS. It was no longer “Software as a Service.” It had delved into “Software-plus-Services.”

Hmmm … intriguing.

Already on a mission to become well-versed in the world of SaaS, I followed the link. But before I could even view the information on the Microsoft site I had to install Microsoft Silverlight.

Easy and quick, but I didn’t necessarily want it. I didn’t even know what it was when I was asked to install it. Sure, Microsoft provided a brief blurb on it, but nothing explaining why I would want this feature on my computer or what it did. And it really only gave me two options: “install” or “read more” (and then install). Needless to say, I begrudgingly installed a new program on my computer and lost 15 minutes of my time (I spent a good 14 minutes trying to find a way around it). And I still couldn’t read the information. I was prompted to close my browser and start again.

Enough was enough. I called my friend Paul Walsh at Microsoft UK.

After a quick rant about the Silverlight debacle (He explained it was a Web browser plug-in and assured me I would like it. We’ll see about that…) I asked him what Software-plus-Services was. He told me it was Microsoft’s slant on SaaS – just bigger and better.

According to Paul, Software-plus-Services combines SaaS, SOA and Web 2.0 in a brand-new user experience. This includes options for managing and accessing the software – they can be Web-based, on-site or a combination of both, depending on the needs of the company.

Cheers, Paul.

Human interaction – all the facts, no plug-in required.

July 24, 2008  11:18 PM

Weekly wrapup

Glen Weaver Profile: The Weave

I think the “things that tick us off” theme of this blog is rubbing off on one of our contributors. Just yesterday, The Real Niel gave us a killer column about how bad your business will look if you don’t put some real heart into business intelligence.

Niel takes issue with one of his software vendors and a car rental service. Both lacked quality BI and failed in customer service as a result. Niel, who travels frequently, took his car rental needs elsewhere. A highly recommended read.

What else did we do this week?

Took a look at data deduplication tools and pointed a load of air conditioning units at our new blade servers. Those things are on fire. Literally.

Started spying on our IT guys. Oh, I mean, “Built trusting relationships so they won’t lock us out of our own network.”

July 24, 2008  2:48 PM

“Are you serious?” or: Dumb things press flaks say

Glen Weaver Profile: The Weave

“What we’re doing is providing an enterprise-level product at a price point that’s affordable to the midmarket.”

Or something like that.

This is my life. I take these phone calls all the time. If you’re a CIO or IT manager in the midmarket, you probably do, too.

Sometimes it gets really out of control, as if it can get any more inane that using a phrase like price point instead of the much better option: Price.

“It’s like buying an Audi at Honda prices,” a press flak once told me about the product she was pitching. Alright, I can’t remember the exact car brands, but you see what I mean? Please tell me where this mythical Honda-priced Audi dealership is.

But maybe they’re catching on. The other day I had a briefing with James Thomas, vice president of business intelligence tools at Business Objects, which is “an SAP company.”

Thomas would like all of you to know that Business Objects is ready to go with Edge 3.0, the latest release in its Edge business intelligence product line. Crystal Reports Server 2008, a report management server, is also out.

“So what’s new?” I ask Thomas. This is the part where he’s supposed to tell me about how these products are going to revolutionize business management for the midmarket.

Except he doesn’t. Thomas explains some of the new features. Crystal Reports now lets users embed reports directly into Microsoft Office documents. Nice idea. Makes sense. And certain mobile device applications can now be used to view Edge reports. Reasonable. Intuitive. Simple.

This is by no means an endorsement of these products. For a good rundown of the features and price, check out my colleague Courtney Bjorlin’s report at

So, no, it’s not for me to say if you should buy Business Objects’ new toys. But I can say that I appreciate Thomas not trying to convince me his company just changed the IT world. He’s got a product. He just wanted to talk about it for a minute.

And that, I must say, is a call I don’t mind taking.

July 23, 2008  7:32 PM

Gartner: Governments should consider electronic health records now

Glen Weaver Profile: The Weave

Earlier this year I wrote about the field of landmines confronting health care CIOs as electronic personal health record programs like Google Health and Microsoft HealthVault make inroads into the market (well, as far as free programs can).

It’s a field worth crossing – carefully. For all the privacy concerns and for all the programming hassles to achieve interoperability, EPHRs (as they are known) offer patients a previously unheard of level of insight and control of their own health information.

I can think of few SaaS and on-demand applications that could so significantly improve our lives the way EPHRs could if properly built, used and implemented.

Gartner agrees. The analyst firm yesterday issued a press release detailing the potential benefits of EPHRs and urging government officials and IT executives to begin developing policies – and, I suppose, laws — to prepare for the inevitable uptake of these programs by patients.

Anybody interested in EPHR developments and the broader questions about use and implementation would be remiss not to keep tabs on Life as a Healthcare CIO, the relatively active blog kept by Dr. John Halamka, CIO at Harvard Medical School and CareGroup Inc. in Boston.

July 22, 2008  5:11 PM

When it comes to the Internet, Senator McCain McCain’t

Kristen Caretta Kristen Caretta Profile: Kristen Caretta

CNN’s top technology story Monday highlighted a little-known fact about Senator John McCain — he doesn’t use the Internet (he does have several Facebook pages, though. Funny how that works…) This may or may not come as a surprise to you. Honestly, I never really thought about whether or not McCain was Internet savvy, but maybe that’s the result of my generation being consistently plugged in. A friend once told me, “You aren’t real friends until you’re Facebook friends.” Yes, I immediately Facebooked her from my BlackBerry, but do you have to be online to be on top of things?

According to the article, “Unlike McCain, many seniors surf the Web,” 35% of Americans over the age of 65 are online for things like emailing, driving directions and finding out useful information. Moreover, the project director, Susannah Fox, says “about three-quarters of white, college-educated men age over 65 use the Internet.” McCain falls right into this demographic, so why the lack in tech skills?

I can’t answer that for you. But I can tell you he’s not completely in the dark. At the Personal Democracy Forum in New York back in June, one of Senator McCain’s aides, Mark Soohoo, told the panel that, in fact, “John McCain is aware of the Internet.” Umm … I should hope so, Mark. How many people do you know who aren’t aware of the Internet?

He may not be able to use the Internet, but don’t worry, he’s aware of it existing. Phew. Just in time for the al-Qaida newscasts on the Web.

July 21, 2008  7:49 PM

Fighting for a Vista rebate. Because somebody has to.

Glen Weaver Profile: The Weave

Some people suffer the insufferable for piece of mind and for the good of all of us who want to live safe, comfortable lives.

The mysterious uncle_benji is one of those people.

Ben, as I’ll call him here, has endured some sort of special hell to wrestle a $200 refund from Hewlett-Packard after deciding he would downgrade Windows Vista to XP on his new laptop (purchased at Best Buy).

The customer service nightmare is detailed here, and I strongly suggest you read it in its entirety. Ben actually lived this. Feel his pain.

My favorite part of this is when an HP senior case manager writes Ben that “Microsoft has stopped issuing licenses for HP as they are going to stay with Vista.”

Wait? “Stay with Vista?” So, what, Microsoft almost gave up? Cat’s out of the bag, folks.

July 21, 2008  3:28 PM

Big green HP scheme

Kristen Caretta Kristen Caretta Profile: Kristen Caretta

With polar bears balancing on ice cubes in the Arctic Circle and gas prices skyrocketing, we are all looking to be a bit more ‘green’ in our everyday lifestyle choices. Right? Well, we’re trying.

Technology solutions provider Hewlett-Packard (HP) has an environment link from its homepage that takes eco-conscious customers to its “HP Eco Solutions” page. Loaded with tips and solutions for consumers, it also advertises the company’s commitment to recycling, CO2 emission reductions and a timeline showcasing its environment history since 1987. You go, HP!

This morning, while scanning technology news across the globe (I take my blog very seriously), I came across something a bit disturbing. UK-based site The Register posted a story about (just my luck!) HP. The headline read “HP shatters excessive packaging world record,” and the pictures showed incredible amounts of packaging (including a huge shipping box, 16 smaller boxes and sheets of foam). What requires so much protection when being shipped? No, not a brand-new computer. Not even a mouse or keyboard. HP had copious amounts of packaging for … drumroll please … 32 pieces of paper.


OK, so maybe Kermit had it right and it’s not easy being green. Apparently, it’s not easy being a green Apple, either. Apple received the lowest score in last year’s Climate Counts survey, examining companies based on how environmentally friendly they were. What may look good on 100% recycled paper is not always easily executed. But come on! Don’t even bother with the recycling timeline (did I mention it dates back to 1987?) if you aren’t going to start small. Cut down on a few sheets of your foam packaging material in every shipment. Hey, go crazy and take out an extra box or two.

I am not doubting HP’s decision to be a more eco-friendly corporation, and I’m sure the environment is very important to some people at HP. I mean, they’re serious enough to create a timeline of recycling. But could it be possible a lot of these decisions to ‘go green’ are less about saving the environment and more about riding the eco-friendly bandwagon to the bank? Green is the color of money, after all. And during a time when it seems so many people are focused on saving money and the polar bears, are consumers more apt to make a purchase if it is deemed ‘green?’ Even if that means your reduced-emissions, hybrid, organic, made-of-100%-recycled-material, all-proceeds-benefit [insert eco fund of your choice here], signed-off-by-Al Gore anything is sent to you in 16 cardboard boxes and enough plastic packaging to make yourself a tent in the backyard (well, you can’t live in your central air apartment after all that — you are trying to be good and green).

With the country in an economic downturn, are people spending their hard-earned dollars on products advertised as ‘green?’

By the way, I’m Kristen. I’m new to the blog.

July 21, 2008  12:57 PM

Mainstream media round-up

Glen Weaver Profile: The Weave

Man, that was a hot and humid one out here. The best thing about Monday is TechTarget foots the air conditioning bill. Here’s what’s been going on, though:

The New York Times reported that quarterly earnings from Google and Microsoft “disappoint.”

Intel, on the other hand, knows how to keep stock traders happy.

Every wronged IT worker’s new hero – Terry Childs – pleaded not guilty to charges that he locked the city of San Francisco out of its own network. As far as I can tell, the city still hasn’t gained back administrative privileges.

All of the papers went to E3 in Los Angeles and gushed over Guitar Hero and Rock Band, two games that are broadening the appeal of video games outside the young male demographic. The big news this week? A massive list of tunes licensed for the next Guitar Hero and Rock Band releases. Honestly, if I can pretend to be Paul Westerberg while jamming on “Alex Chilton,” I might even buy this thing.

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