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January 29, 2009

Investors are in the game too

Yesterday I ranted a bit about the politician who said, "We’ve got to make sure that we are stimulating investors, entrepreneurs and small business people to get back in the game.”  I intentionally didn't comment on "investors" because except for my 401k, I don't consider myself an investor.  I started to speculate on how investors are feeling right now, but decided to not talk about something I really don't know much about.

I woke up this morning to see that Brad Feld is calling himself an Venture Optimist after reading a New York Times story titled Maybe We Should Call Them Venture Pessimists.   Go read Brad's own take on venture investing and human innovation.

January 29, 2009 in Entrepreneurship | Permalink | TrackBack

January 28, 2009

I thought I WAS in the game

Driving to work this morning I caught just a piece of an interview with Congressman Eric Cantor, and what he said gave me one of those, “What did he just say?” moments.  He said, “We’ve got to make sure that we are stimulating investors, entrepreneurs and small business people to get back in the game.”

I’d say I know a fair number of entrepreneurs and small business people, and with just one exception they are working harder than ever.  None that I know are saying, “I’m going to sit on the sidelines until things get better.”  I know one person who sold his company just before things turned down, and he’s itching to “get back in the game.”  He’s the one exception.  And you know what he’s doing while he figures out his next venture?  He’s going around helping other entrepreneurs with introductions, brainstorming sessions and a lot of encouragement.   Everyone else that I know is putting in longer hours and they are working harder to get through the downturn and to even get AHEAD while the big guys are worrying about their stock price.

Don’t get me wrong, I know that there must be a lot of businesses that have failed, and I’m very sorry for those entrepreneurs and small business people.  I’m especially sorry for all the people who lost their jobs in the process.  I know from experience that it is gut wrenching to be working hard and not seeing the results you want.  I’ve been there, and I feel for them, but to suggest that entrepreneurs and small business people “need to get back in the game” is ridiculous.  I will bet that this period will spawn more new entrepreneurs than the dot.com boom, and that the businesses that get created will be better because this time around they are in “make money or die mode”  not “get rich quick mode.”

If you’re reading this, you might just be thinking about getting in the game yourself.  Come on in, there’s room for more.  This is a great time to start a company.  And if you are already an entrepreneur, keep playing hard – I know you are in the game 24 hours a day and NOT sitting on the sidelines waiting for things to get better.

January 28, 2009 in Entrepreneurship | Permalink | TrackBack

January 27, 2009

Network World Podcast about Unified Communications

Capture Mitchell Ashley called me last week to talk about Unified Communications and the work my company is doing with Microsoft’s Office Communications Server 2007 R2.  Mitchell has put the conversation up as a podcast on the Network World website at http://www.networkworld.com/podcasts/com/2009/012209com-uc.html  I’ve enjoyed reading Mitchell’s Converging Network blog since I discovered it last year, so it was a real pleasure to be the subject of one his posts.

We talked a lot about what it’s like as a user to have true unified communications and how much easier it makes my life.  One of the big changes is we’ve cut our conference call expenses by $3,000 a month just by hosting the calls ourselves.  During the call I mentioned that my part of the conversation was all over VoIP using SIP trunks from Bandwidth.com connected to our Microsoft Office Communications Server R2.  I was using a Polycom CX700 aka Tanjay phone plugged into our Ethernet network.  Mitchell was using Skype, so we may have not been using any copper phone lines anywhere in the connection.  The quality was great.

We’ve come a long way from the two-line phone and answering machine that Jim and I bought at Target when we started the company!


January 27, 2009 in Unified Communications | Permalink | TrackBack

January 23, 2009

Waitamo Caves – Wonderland or Weirdoland – Kindle update

kindle story

Back in October I wrote about my experience publishing on the Kindle ebook from Amazon.com.  My wife Cindy had written a short story about our experience doing something called Blackwater Rafting a few years ago, and she donated it to me for my publishing experiment.  I published it to the Kindle and mentioned it once on my blog, expecting that maybe one or two of my friends with Kindles would buy it.  It’s only about 10 pages long, so I priced it at the minimum price of $1 and Amazon discounts it 20%.  At 80 cents a pop, we weren’t planning on being able to fund a return trip to New Zealand.  I think I get maybe 8 cents for each copy sold, but the joy that Cindy gets every time someone buys a copy has turned out to be worth way more than 80 cents.

I checked the stats on Amazon.com today and I’m very proud to report that my wife’s story is now ranked #66 in the Rafting category, and #85 in the Adventure travel category.  She will be horrified if she finds out I’ve written this, because she would first point out that it’s #66 ON THE KINDLE, not in all books, and besides she’s kind of shy about this sort of thing.  Seriously though – 80 cents.  I’ll personally refund your money if you don’t like it, but you will – it’s a funny story and pretty much told at my expense.  There are a few four letter words in the story – the ones you would use on your husband if you were coerced to ride down a river in an inner tube, in a cave 300 feet below the surface, in a tight wet suit with a miner’s helmet on your head.  And there are “Enchanting Glowworms” on the ceiling of the cave.  “Glowworm” is a nice tourist-term for maggots with poop that glows in the dark.  Oh, and you are a tad claustrophobic.  You know the words I mean.  :-) 

The experience, and the reaction from some very kind readers, has encouraged her to write more.  Just a few weeks ago she finished the first draft of a novel.  I’m biased, but I think it’s a great story.  If you want to take my word for it, and you are an agent representing fiction novels, PLEASE contact me.  I’ll get SO many points if I can help Cindy get her book published.  And it really is a great story.  So far I haven’t been able to convince her to let me publish it on the Kindle – she’s kind of traditional about some things.

Thanks to everyone who bought Cindy’s story.  If you haven’t yet, here’s another convenient link.  I get double points if you go write a nice review on amazon.com.  Once again, that link is right here and here, or you can just search for Cindy Gold on amazon.com  Can you tell how proud I am of her?

Cindy doesn’t read my blog, so let’s just keep this post between us, OK?

Update 1:  She found out about this post, and has called me "Ridiculously Supportive."    I'm so lucky.

January 23, 2009 in Books, Travel | Permalink | TrackBack

January 20, 2009

President Obama Tests Microsoft Office Communications Server

A couple of days ago I realized that a lot of people were going to be late to work today so that they could stay home and watch the Inauguration, or they were going to come to work and watch CNN from their desktops.  The last thing President Obama needs on his first day at work is a big drop in the GDP, so I decided to stream the Inauguration into our main conference room for anyone who wanted to watch. 

At Gold Systems we now have most of our outbound calls, and many of our inbound calls routing via SIP trunks from Bandwidth.com over our Qwest Fiber 10mbps Internet connection.  Because of that, we were very curious to see how everything would hang together today during what was likely to be an Internet-bandwidth-saturating event.

We were streaming the video in the conference room, and I’m sure many people were watching from their desktops.  At the peak we saw 68% saturation of our internet connection, and phone calls via the SIP trunks were “clear as a bell” according to Ned.  I’m sure that a lot of Internet and communications systems got tested today, and I hope they held up as well as ours did.

Oh – someone needs to go write a Wikipedia entry for SIP Trunks.  Wikipedia thought I meant Swim Trunks.



January 20, 2009 in Office of the Future, Unified Communications, Web/Tech | Permalink | TrackBack

January 16, 2009

BCBR tweets that TechStars is now taking applications


BCBRmainLogo The Boulder County Business Report is now using Twitter, and I just received a tweet that says that TechStars is taking applications for their third year.  This is a great opportunity for entrepreneurs to get a little tiny bit of funding and a humongous amount of mentoring and experience this summer.  If you have a great idea for a new company, check out TechStars.  If you apply and get selected, come on by when you get to Boulder and I’ll help you get connected.

Read the article at the BCBR website here.

Jerry Lewis was always looking for ways to be more than just a newspaper and it looks like Chris Wood is carrying on the tradition. 


(I didn’t really just receive the Tweet – I exchanged email with David Cohen over the weekend and he asked me to hold of on this post until Monday.)

January 16, 2009 in Entrepreneurship | Permalink | TrackBack

January 13, 2009

Songsmith Software


This week Anthony Hannigan emailed me an article about some new software by Microsoft Research.  According to the Seattle Tech Report, the software called Songsmith was to go on sale on Thursday and would be available through Microsoftstore.com  The software was supposed to be able to record someone singing into a microphone, and then it would figure out the appropriate chords and create a backing track for the vocals, including guitars, drums, keyboards, strings and whatnot.  Presto chango, you too can be a rock star.  It sounded too good to be true, so I plunked down my $29.95 and downloaded my very own copy three days before it was supposed to go on sale.

I spent a little time with it last night and didn't get great results.  (If you've already watched the video, you might argue that I STILL haven't got great results!)  Due to some technical problems with my microphone and interface, which is my problem, not Songsmith's, I couldn't get anything interesting to happen with vocals, but then I realized that the software also works with guitar, keyboards and probably any musical input.

After a long day at work I came home tonight and as I often do I relaxed by fooling around with a guitar.  Next thing I knew I had the tune and video above.  Recording the music took at most 10 minutes.  Using Windows Movie Maker took another hour as I futzed around with the photos and titles.

I haven't talked much here about my secret life of music, but it's every bit as important to me as being an entrepreneur and playing with technology.  When the three overlap, I go into the zone and come out hours later happy and ready to go again.

I'm impressed with Songsmith, and I'm looking forward to how it evolves.  Over ten years ago I played with The Axe software by Harmonix.  The idea there was that non-musicians could create music by twiddling controls on their computer.  It didn't get much attention, but that company went on to create Guitar Hero.

It's easy to write Guitar Hero off as a toy that doesn't help people learn music, but it sure has got a lot of people to at least stand up and keep time with the music.  My dream is that one day people will get just as excited about playing a real instrument as they do with Guitar Hero and I think the software innovators out there like the folks at Harmonix and now the musicians at Microsoft are getting us closer to that day.  (If you follow the link above to my Banjo Hero post, realize that only the first two paragraphs are true.  The rest was my idea of an April Fools joke.  Do a search on "Banjo Hero" and you see that plenty of people didn't get the joke.  If you are SERIOUS about playing banjo, go to DrBanjo.com and please accept my apologies.  I know it's not nice to make fun of banjo players.)

I believe that everyone should have the chance to play music, so while I'm sure some musicians will write this software off as being a toy, I'll bet others will take it and come up with some great songs.  And if it gets a few people to put down their plastic guitar, turn off the TV and step up a bit to making real music, then the developers will have done a great service to the world.

If you want to learn more about Songsmith, click here to visit the Songsmith team web site

January 13, 2009 in Music, Science | Permalink | TrackBack

January 11, 2009

Win 7 to Win 7 via Live Mesh to Windows Home Server

This just blows my mind, or maybe I'm just sleep deprived.

whs in fj win 7

It was cold in the garage, so I came inside and used my desktop machine which is now running Windows 7, to open up a Live Mesh remote desktop connection to the FJ Cruiser sitting in the garage.  (The computer is powered up but the FJ is dark.)  While checking out the Windows 7 install on the FJ Cruiser Car Computer, I opened up the Windows Home Server Console to make sure the FJ will get automatically backed up tonight. In the snip above I'm interacting with three different computers - 2 in my office, and one in the garage. 

I used the snipping tool to grab the screen capture and saved it as a jpg in a folder that is sync'd between all my machines via Live Mesh.  A moment later the jpg was sitting on my main desktop that is running Vista, and was ready to be popped into this post. 

OK, I need sleep.

January 11, 2009 in Car Computer, Office of the Future, Unified Communications | Permalink | TrackBack

Windows 7 in the FJ Car Computer

On Friday Microsoft briefly opened up Windows 7 to Gold Certified Partners, and our awesome IT guy grabbed me a copy.  I've upgraded a very old desktop (works fine) and I just finished upgrading the FJ Car Computer too.

As you can see it seems to run Office Communicator just fine.  Too bad no one is up at this hour to try a video conference!

win7 in the FJ

Very cool, I can't wait to play with it.

January 11, 2009 in Car Computer, Unified Communications | Permalink | TrackBack

January 08, 2009

Unified Communications in the Car

OK, I don't really think that most people are going to be having video conferences in their car in the near term, but just to prove how well Microsoft's Unified Communications platform works for remote workers, I decided to try it out in the FJ Car Computer.  I'm running Office Communicator R2 on a pretty low-powered Vista machine in my car.  The camera is an off-the-shelf webcam, and I'm connected to a nearby WiFi network.  As you can see the video frame rate and quality is great and it worked just fine.

You can see at the beginning of the video that I had started the conference as an IM session using Office Communicator.  I could see Angela's presence information and that she was available, so I IM'd her and asked if she had a minute to talk, and then I asked if we could go to video.  I clicked on the video icon and within a few seconds we were having a video conference.  (It's good manners to ask, but Angela could have denied the video request if she wanted to.)


I was using one hand to take the video and I was balancing the wireless keyboard on my lap - that explains the fumbling at 1:05 and the inadvertent video of myself!

IMG_8297 IMG_8310

Deploying Unified Communications is an important part of what my company does, and I believe we'll be creating all sorts of new applications in the future.  It's already changed how I work, which reminds me, it's time to revisit my Office of the Future post and give an update.  We're making some progress.  One person suggested we not even have offices, which lead to my Wireless in the Wilderness post.


January 8, 2009 in Car Computer, Office of the Future, Unified Communications | Permalink | TrackBack