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May 20, 2009

Jim Collins and Steve Martin arrive today


What an interesting day!  The new book from Jim Collins arrived today and in the same box was Steve Martin's new Banjo CD.  I got in a chapter or two at lunch and I expect I'll finish it tonight. "How the Mighty Fall and Why Some Companies Never Give In" is available now and looks really interesting.  It seems to be trying to answer the question, "What happened to the companies mentioned in Built to Last and Good to Great that have fallen from greatness?  Where did they go wrong, and what lessons might we learn from them?"

I think I might cut out the quote from the back cover and stick it on my wall.



"Whether you prevail or fail, endure or die, depends more on what you do to yourself than on what the world does to you." -- Jim Collins

And what about the Steve Martin reference?  Everyone knows that Steve Martin is a funny guy, and some people know that he plays banjo, but not many people know that he's a REALLY GOOD banjo player.  He's also a friend and student of Boulder's own Dr. Banjo aka Pete Wernick, and he's just released his first serious music CD.  Pete played on some of the cuts as did Dolly Parton, Vince Gill, Earl Scruggs, Bela Fleck, Tim O'Brien and Mary Black.  You might remember that Pete is the Banjo Player for Hot Rize and Tim O'Brien is the mandolin player, so there are a couple of Boulder connections.

The Crow: New Songs for the 5-String Banjo is available at DrBanjo.com and other fine music retailers.  It comes with a nice set of liner notes (is that what they are called now?) and I'm looking forward to getting home and listening to it while reading Steve's comments about how he wrote the tunes and who was playing on each one.

The Crow cover 

Here's a Youtube video of the title cut. 

May 20, 2009 in Entrepreneurship, Music | Permalink | TrackBack

May 07, 2009

The new, new Kindle

I won't be buying the new Kindle DX, because I like that my Kindle 2 is small enough to fit into my backpack for traveling, but it does look interesting.  If you haven't heard, Amazon surprised people this week with another new Kindle that has a screen that is "two and a half" times bigger than the Kindle 2.  It also auto-rotates when you turn it on it's side, can handle PDFs and it holds up to 3,500 books.  Some people are saying this device will save the newspaper industry, but I'm not believing that as long as they still think of themselves as the newsPAPER industry.  Amazon announced new deals with the New York Times and the Washington post and also partnerships with several universities and textbook publishers so that students can get their textbooks on the Kindle DX.

Yesterday I sat outside at lunch and read.  The sun was so bright that I was practicly blinded, but my kindle was perfectly readable.  When a new email arrived on my phone, I pulled it out to check it and was struck by how un-readable my phone display was in the sunlight compared to the Kindle.  In the photo below, the phone display is on, but impossible to read in the direct Colorado sunlight.


(Click the photo for a closer look)

I was also going to link to a photo I saw yesterday of the new Kindle DX that showed an instrument approach plate on it.  Pilots carry big books of loose-leaf paper around with them with diagrams of how they are expected to fly instrument approaches.  Every month they get updates that they are then expected to file (quickly and correctly) into their spiral bound notebooks.  Occasionally they put one in the wrong place and then "discover" a new antenna or other structure has appeared near the airport.  The picture seems to have disappeared - maybe the idea of depending on technology in the cockpit scared to many people.  That's a joke - unless you fly a Piper Cub, you probably are already depending on a whole lot of technology in the cockpit.

May 7, 2009 in Web/Tech | Permalink | TrackBack

May 04, 2009

Windows 7 RC first thoughts . . .

I've got Windows 7 RC (Release candidate 1) running on my production laptop at work now.  No guts, no glory.  Actually it was an easy decision to do the upgrade as soon as RC was available because my experience with the beta version of Windows 7 has been so good.  I'm running Windows 7 on all but on of my computers now, and that includes the FJ Car Computer, and yes it runs Office Communicator just fine.  I've even done a video conference from the FJ.  (Safely parked, I promise!  And I don't have RC on the FJ yet.)


Here's what I especially like in Windows 7

  • It's fast.  It boots very quickly and resumes from suspend within two or three seconds.  Lately I've noticed a lot of laptop users that always shutdown their machines completely.  I had problems in XP, and some in Vista with putting machines to sleep, but I haven't had that problem once with Windows 7.
  • I like the new look.  It isn't radically different, though the RC candidate release has a nice new login screen.
  • I LOVE the fact that when I open my laptop at home, it realizes I'm on a new network and gives me a new default printer which is actually at home.  With XP and Vista I was always trying to send things to the wrong printer.  Setup is as easy as telling it a default printer for each different network you really care about.
  • I LOVE being able to "peek" at running apps on the task bar.  Internet Explorer makes the best use of it, but other apps will pick up the ability in time.  Now when I have five windows or tabs (doesn't matter) open in IE, I can very quickly jump to the one I care about without cycling through all the others.  Outlook uses it effectively too.  You have to see it and play with it a bit to get it, but once you do you will curse Vista and XP for not having it.  This alone will drive me to upgrade my last Vista machine.  Here's a video showing Aero Peek, Aero Shake and Aero Snap - turn your speakers down if you are at work or the kids are asleep.  Aero peek
  • I've always customized my task bar and start menu with the apps I use the most.  Every version of windows makes this easier, but now it is dead simple and everyone will be pinning apps they really care about to the start menu and task bar.
  • In Vista the cool little app that became a part of my everyday work flow was the snipping tool. Snipping tool   With Windows 7, it might be the magnifier tool.  Magnifier tool
  • This may have happened in Vista, but the calculator now can server as a programmer's calculator.  I didn't care before, but now I do and I have no idea where my TI is anymore, though I'm sure I still have it.

Bottom line - It looks like Windows 7 is going to be a great upgrade.  I'll probably upgrade my last Vista machine soon, and then I'll buy my next new machine when I can get Windows 7 from the factory.  I realize this post is mostly about changes to the UI and apps, but I believe the real change is under the skins.  Windows 7 feels more stable and much faster.

Here's what I don't like, and all of these gripes have been around since even before XP.

  • Why is it that I can be working in a window, say typing happily along in a document, and then some other application can pop a window up and take the focus and thus my keystrokes until I notice that my window has been hijacked??  It always happens at the worst time too, like just as I'm about to type "yes, that would be a good idea" in an email, another application pops up and asks if I really want to cancel the download that has been chugging along for 20 minutes.  I hate it when that happens.  Many years ago I turned in a bug report as a beta tester of either Windows for Workgroups or Chicago about this behavior, but apparently I'm the only one who thinks this is a bug.  Do Apples do this too??
  • Have you ever noticed that when an error message does pop up, that you often can't copy and paste the error message into a document or email?  Why should I have to copy a message one character at a time into an email.  I often use the snipping tool to capture the error, but I can't always get to it.Error capture  By the way, I caused the error with the code I wrote, so I'm not complaining about the error, just that I didn't have an easy way to save the message.
  • Finally, why can't I sync notes back to Exchange Server just like I do email, calendar, contacts and tasks?  OK, that's not even a Windows problem but it still bugs me.

May 4, 2009 in Web/Tech | Permalink | TrackBack