Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Return of Ford Motor Company

The news is starting to spread. With an outstanding earnings release, and a new stable of cars and trucks, Ford is back, even if they are far leaner than they ever were.

1932 Ford Model A
Many people in this country grew up with Ford vehicles and it had an impact on their life. I saw it first hand, since both of my parents drove fords and still do. In fact, I learned to drive in a 1972 Ford Station Wagon. What has never changed is the Ford logo: it is still the same.

The Ford F-150 has been the king of trucks since its inception. Many have tried to conquer it, but it is hard to compete with a truck this rugged. My neighbor in New York only used Ford trucks at his business because he indicated that nothing else could take the pounding.

It is in the car line-up that the changes have been coming at such a steady pace. The Mustang is just a joy to drive and it is a head turner. That said, Ford now offers a 40 MPG Fiesta that has been blogged and you-tubed for the last two years and is already popular with the iPhone crowd.

The biggest thing Ford has done is to simplify while it improved quality. Ford offers only six different car models, which is one of the reasons it is making money. These cars run well and are as good or better than their competition.

Ford is not slowing down either. Next week (last week of July 2010), Ford unveils the redesigned Ford Explorer.

Ford is back and it is great to see. Quality cars and trucks, at reasonable prices. They work and they run. Just like the original Model T that Henry Ford built.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Picking the Right Mac Laptop for College

If your high school graduate is about to head off to college, it is important to properly equip them with a PC (oops I meant a Mac) that is easy to use and that will work reliably and not require any assistance. We made the shift for our kids back in 2006 and the long term road test indicates that occasionally running disk utility is the only maintenance needed on these machines.

The laptop of choice for a lot of students is shifting to the Apple MacBook and the reasons are now self-explanatory (they easy to use and just work, all the time).  I'm going to share some brief thoughts on which MacBook to choose and the reasons why.

Platform - 13 inch vs 15 inch MacBook Pro
This is a personal preference, but a bigger screen often means more productivity. The only reason not to buy one from the University Store (UCLA offers both) is because you DO want to order online and get the 500 GB 7200 RPM hard disk. It is much faster than the standard drive (5400 RPM) and that also means more productivity for your student. Check out this link from Having had a glossy 13" MacBook for a while, I might now opt for the Anti-Glare Option.

Don't forget Apple Care. Don't skip this option, as it provides three years of support and repair service for your Mac.

Office Suite
Microsoft Office 2008 is the office suite of choice. Note that a key feature in MS Word is the Note taking feature and it allows for audio recordings of the professor's lecture.

Online File, Content Access and Backup
Mobile Me from Apple is one option, so is Google Docs. Some friends are using Mobile Me more often and for a student, it also backs up contacts. Before you sign-up though, check out what the University is offering. Also, send along some food sized USB memory sticks for file sharing etc.

An extra power cord can be a life saver, as sometimes a power cord can be left in the library and you need power for an all nighter... Some dorm rooms won't fit an extra display but that is your choice.

Transporting and Protecting your laptop
A number of providers, including Speck provide skins and backpacks/bags to protect and transport your Mac...Solar backpacks, while not for everyone, do work.

The printer to pick will be a separate post, as picking the right printer is easier said than done. So, have fun picking your Mac and start using it now, so you get used to it before heading to school.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

CyberWar Reference Links

There is a lot of information out there about the Google hack. It is worth keeping a list:

January Articles
Computer World

March Articles
Mcafee Blog

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Cyber Warfare and the new Era of Advanced Persistent Threats

Cyber Warfare is here and your PC is the tool that becomes a weapon. How it does so is up for debate, but facts that have come to light indicate that the PC you pick, the browser and reader you use and the apps you run are being harnessed to launch cyber warfare attacks on you, your company and your country.

I wrote about the hack of Google earlier this year and since then even more information has come to light. The fact that so much of Google's infrastructure was compromised is probably why Google was so angry.

The issue for the normal user and for any IT Pro is that Operating Systems, Flash Players, PDF viewers are all being exploited through zero day vulnerabilities. It isn't just one application that is being exploited. It is a combination and that suggests a much higher level of sophistication than we have known so far in the Internet generation.

The Cocktail combo used to get Google appears to have been PCs with IE 6 running on them. That browser, combined with Facebook Instant Messaging, could enable a fatal trojan to be loaded onto the target PC. After that, it was easy.

Google's reaction was to stop support for IE6. It is a true statement that Adobe has had as much heat for security flaws as Microsoft. Apple has also quietly been issuing security updates at the same frequency as Adobe and Microsoft.

Even more telling is how these attacks are now being labeled. George Kurtz of Mcafee writes. “These highly customized attacks known as ‘advanced persistent threats’ (APT) were primarily seen by governments and the mere mention of them strikes fear in any cyberwarrior. They are in fact the equivalent of the modern drone on the battle field. With pinpoint accuracy they deliver their deadly payload and once discovered — it is too late. All I can say is wow. The world has changed.”

Corporate Security is a big issue and it cannot be ignored. The wrong OS or Browser or player puts you at risk.  Most of the Analysts I know are not taking a strong position on this. The risks are clear: gamble and you lose source code or even more.

It is clear that higher levels of defenses are needed. The first step is knowledge. Check out this link for some courses. Raise your browser security levels and look for best practices like the plug-in checker from Mozilla. Lastly, consider disconnecting certain corporate systems from the regular network (ie a standalone network). Don't wait. Put together a new plan now.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Making of a Corporate Marketing Video called 'The Ask'

It may be that it is a dying art, but in twelve years at Gartner, I rarely ever saw a good (let alone great) launch video for a new product. Jump ahead to 2010 and I'm back in vendor land facing the task of getting the word out on a new Collaboration product offering that is now announced (Saba Live and Saba Collaboration Suite).

The making of a corporate video is never easy and it is fraught with roadblocks and challenges. Overcoming them is about staying focused on the mission: producing a short, but compelling story that convinces all viewers to look a little closer at what you have to offer.

The making of The Ask is almost as interesting as the video itself. First, you need a world class script writer who is technical enough to be able to understand product features but then able to finesse them into the story without hitting the viewer over the head. My good friend Sheldon Renan wrote the script for The Ask and he is the same guy that produced the famous video called The Deadline when I was running marketing for MFPs (Digital Copier/Printers) at Xerox in Rochester NY.

You also need to have a great director David Rathod and a great producer Laura Marks, both pictured on the left. But to make it happen, you need a great team to pull off the story. 
The Collaboration Business Unit at Saba moved mountains and we created a fictional company, Bladzco, that is featured in the video. One of the funny stories about the making of the video is that all the screen shots were actually filmed during the production (almost no post). That is a credit to the strength and maturity of the products.
That said, Saba has had a collaboration offering since 2005 and has offered Saba Centra Web Conferencing for over ten years. That is one reason why so many Global 500 firms and the public sector trust Saba for enterprise class web conferencing.

So, now the video is out and my friends at Gartner are calling it 'impressive'. So are our customers.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Fingernails and SmartPhones

A small musing on one aspect related to Smartphone selection.

Many of my female professional associates have long fingernails that make it hard to use a touch screen smartphone. As a result, many of them are going the way of the Blackberry or Android devices because of the physical keyboard.

In fact, some of my friends carry two devices, one for heavy texting, the other for browsing. Maybe the iPad will change that behavior (eliminate the need for a second device).

What is your preference?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Smartphones, Tablets and the Rise and Fall of Technology Providers

Time changes all things and 2010 is no exception. Everywhere I go, I see iPads.  In fact, my team at Saba Software helped me produce an awesome launch video about Saba Live and it has iPads featured in it. No one has made a challenge so far to the iPad. Nothing, not a squeak.
What is interesting to watch is how the smartphone wars have changed the landscape.  My friends at Gartner used to say that it wouldn't take much for Palm to be successful. Palm is gone. HP wants PalmOS...
Microsoft put out a new phone called the Kin and promptly killed it, only days after starting a TV advertising campaign. You can still see the website that shows the Kin, but you can also read the details about how it got killed here.
Google now claims that an Android phone is sold every two seconds and that Android is surpassing the iPhone. That may be, but Android doesn't have the cult appeal of the iPhone. That said, some techies are starting to shift. However, the new data plan for the iPhone will mean millions of teenagers will get iPhones, since many parents will go for the $15 dollar a month data plan.
Nokia, the world's largest producer of smart phones recently warned that earnings may fall.
The Apple iPad created a new category and is now a mainstream toy for all the tech enthusiasts that travel the world. Mainstream consumers are snapping them up too. Who will respond to the iPad? So far, no one has.
So, in the course of 36 months, the market for smartphones and tablets has changed. Vendors like Apple and Google are on the rise. Others are taking their lumps. As I have said before, user experience trumps everything.