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HP Buys Palm – webOS Tablet in the Future?

Posted on April 29, 2010 by Archives

Hewlett-Packard Co. has announced that they are buying Palm for $1.2 Billion dollars, debt and all.  Which works out to $5.70 dollars a share which is almost a 25% premium on the stock before the announcement was made.  So what does it mean for Palm to have HP, RIS' number one technology company (RIS Retailer Info Systems News January 2010), behind them?

Benefits to Palm:

  • Increased R&D Budget, Palm is estimated to have been spending $190 million a year and HP is looking to increase that.
  • Strong commitment to open source and webOS is built on open source technology.
  • Increased ability to scale and a greater global reach.

Benefits to Hewlett-Packard:

  • Palm's Intellectual Property
  • webOS (Palm's Intellectual Property)
  • Innovation (Palm's Intellectual Property)

The common theme in HP's acquisition of Palm is webOS.  So the question is why buy a whole company for webOS, instead of using Google's Android platform?  HP believes that the Smartphone, Netbook and Tablet markets are still in early stages.  They want to push webOS as a primary platform and believe that the developers will follow.  Also HP is “focused on leveraging several large carriers instead of large numbers of small carriers.”  HP provides infrastructure for eight out of ten of the largest carriers in the world and plan to use that leverage.  This would enable Palm to have greater market penetration then it currently has.
 
In answering the question of how HP plans on positioning webOS in the coming years, they mentioned that Palm already has the Pre and Pixi out.  But they also mentioned that there is enormous interest on the commercial side with vertical deployments, as well broad opportunities for consumers.  HP likes choice and plan on keeping their partnership with Microsoft, but are looking to create a unique HP experience with their acquisition of Palm,  “... with the webOS we will be able to aggressively deploy an integrated platform that will allow HP to own the entire customer experience.”  So even though the HP Slate is scheduled to launch with Windows 7, don't be surprised when you see a Slate running webOS in the near future.  This adds to the growing market of serious mobile commerce players, retailers would be well advised to start planning, if they haven’t already, for growth in this area.

HP to acquire Palm Slides and Transcript

 

Incomplete Evaluations Lead to Hasty Decisions

Posted on February 22, 2010 by Archives

We live in a culture of information overload. If you’re reading this online (with certainty, you are) you understand that there are several programs or websites running in the background vying for your attention. This overload is a reality that forces each of us to constantly make hasty decisions about the meaning and importance of the information surging at us everyday.

The problem with this is that many times, due to the haste and lack of complete visibility, we make the wrong decision. In this process, we're given only a few seconds to decide that one item, idea or issue carries more weight than another.

We skim through important documents and speed through 15-second sound bites to decide which products we buy, which celebrity we admire and which political party we support.

As a customer service representative, I see the consequences of this information overload on a daily basis. A customer who thought that reading through our returns policy was not that big of a deal is upset about a restocking fee. Someone who based a purchasing decision on a picture rather than reading through the product description has (inadvertently) ordered the wrong item. Maybe they overlooked the stated lead-time on an item and are forced to extend an important deadline, all kinds of conflict that could have been avoided.

Though I see the results of cursory information evaluation, I am not guiltless of doing the same thing.  In a world where a tide of new information is crashing down on us at 7 megabytes per second, it is hard to keep your head above water. I confess to having hastily agreed to a fair share of returns policies before reading them through. Who has the time (or professional training) to decipher the foreign legalese anyway?

Someone very wise has told me that the foundation of business and sales is not only to convince a customer of the need for your product, but to convince them that it is easier to live with it than without it.

So, I might suggest that we take the same approach to presenting critical information. How do we make relevant information easier to have than not to have? It is easy to argue that information-- returns policies, terms and conditions, shipping information --is already easily accessible, which is true. But is it easier to have than not to have? I do not presume to have an answer to the great question of how to educate the masses for our own good. But, I’m happy to join in the conversation.

Meet Tom Wujec. This year at the TED conference he discussed just how it is that our fickle minds create meaning.

Maybe if we start with an understanding of how we work, we can figure out how to make it easier to live educated than it is to suffer the consequences of the uninformed.

 

Twitter Assists Users by Denying Poor Passwords

Posted on January 27, 2010 by Archives

Recently Twitter.com implemented some password standards for their new users. If you view their source on the sign up page you can find a password list of around 370 banned passwords. Try searching for "twttr.BANNED_PASSWORDS" to see it. It consists of things like simple combinations of numbers, first names, team names and food.  Here are some examples of banned passwords on Twitter:

1234567
abc123
apples
batman
corvette
freddy
iloveyou
lakers
startrek
thx1138
yellow

While this is a step to helping users create stronger passwords it doesn't do much to educate them.  Twitter provides prompts such as “6 characters or more (be tricky!)” for instructions on creating a password.  If the password is part of the banned passwords they get a “Too obvious” warning that doesn't really look like a warning.  Oh and while "cheese" doesn't work as an acceptable password "cheesy" is approved as a welcomed Twitter password.

 

Twitter Password Too Obvious

 

A better approach would be to show the user some aspects of a strong password.  For instance, a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers, special characters and not using a dictionary word. I do not feel those are covered by “be tricky.”  Google does a good job of providing information on what they consider a good password as a link in their account creation.

It really comes down to user education.  Having strong password requirements might hinder the user experience initially, but will ultimately help the user experience in the long run as it's a step against their account being compromised.

 

Hand Exercises for Long Term Computer Use

Posted on December 21, 2009 by Archives

If you work in eCommerce, it is almost guaranteed you work on a computer all day.  If you are like me, you are at the computer all day at work and then maybe a few hours at home in addition to work.  All this repetitive movement that your hands and wrists do can be really wearing and painful.  Even more so if you have experienced an injury to your hand (I've personally had over 50 stitches between both my hands). Experiencing pain while trying to work can affect your performance and ultimately lead to long term injury, neither of which is good for you or the company.

Through my therapy sessions and experience I have various exercises that can be done to help cope with the repetitive strain that comes with using computers at work and home.  These exercises focus on flexion, extension and stretching.

Flexion is when you curl your fingers or make a fist.  When typing at a computer one is naturally flexing their fingers when pushing down on the keys. To work on flexion the following are available:

    • Hand Grips: A hand grip is a spring with two handles that you squeeze together.  They come in many different resistance levels.  I like doing a set of 20 in each hand once a day.


Hand Grips Exercise One

       

Hand Grips Exercise Two

    • Squeeze Toys: These are easy to get at conferences, they make great swag and companies will gladly hand out a squeeze balls with their logo on it.


Squeeze Toy Exercise One

       

Squeeze Toy Exercise Two

Extension is when you straighten your hand and fingers, it is the opposite of flexion.  Since typing uses flexion more than extension it is important to work on extending your fingers to keep a healthy balance. To work on extending your fingers:

    • Rubber Bands: One wouldn't really think about it but rubber bands are great for providing resistance.  Just put the rubber band around the tips of your fingers and straighten them out.  Double up or add more rubber bands to provide increased resistance.


Rubber Band Excercise One

       

Rubber Band Excercise Two

       

Rubber Band Excercise Three

    • Therapy Putty: Also called “Thinking Putty” is good for extension and flexion.  For flexion as you can squeeze it and for extension you put your fingers in the putty and press them forward.


Therapy Putty

       

Hand Therapy

Stretching increases flexibility and range of motion for your fingers and wrist.  It also helps to prevent stiffness in your joints.

 

 

 

 

 

Of course, it’s important to meet with your doctor before starting any exercise program or if you are feeling pain.  I have also found the following resources useful.


http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/arthritis/AR00030
http://www.stretchnow.com.au/exercises/hands.htm

 

 

Integrating Open Source Software Into a Work Environment

Posted on October 29, 2009 by Archives

I am a fan of open source software.  The main characteristic of open source software is that the source code is freely published.  This contributes to the success of the programs in many ways: the code is available for modification making it flexible, users are able to collaborate to correct defects, authors are more likely to stand behind their claims (because the code can be read), oh and it’s typically free.  Linux (Ubuntu) is my main desktop operating system at home and on my personal laptop.

However, as do many open source enthusiasts, I use Windows at work.  But, of course, I would prefer to use an open source solution.The question is, how does one “infiltrate” open source into their primarily Windows based work environment?
     
First I thought about letting everyone know that we should be running Linux (*BSD, OpenSolaris) on everything regardless, no matter what it is or who is running it. What stopped me is that I am still unable to grow a proper Unix/Linux Beard:

 

unix beard and linux beard

Little bit of nerd humor, but joking aside, for the everyday office circumstance this is probably not the best approach for integrating open source software into a work environment that has been based on a Windows operating system. What does make sense is starting small and simple.  Instead of replacing the current platform, build on top of it.  That is, find open source software that runs on Windows.

If you don't know where to start there is the OpenDisc which is a CD you can download that has open source software to try out.

Also, here is a list of programs that I use at work:

    • Open Office: Office productivity suite that is able to open the new docx and xlsx out of the box unlike office 2003.

 

    • FireFox: Even you don't know about open source you've most likely heard of this web browser that offers many custom features, add ons and plug-ins.

 

    • FreeMind: A java based mind mapping program.

 

    • GIMP: For image retouching, editing and authoring.

 

    • SharpDevelop: A free IDE for C#, VB.NET and Boo projects on Microsoft's .NET platform.

 

Of course check with your IT Manager to make sure that the use of these programs is allowed.  Also, check out this presentation by Chad Wollenberg titled “The Free and Open Advantage”.

 

 

Data and Content: The Offensive Line of eCommerce

Posted on September 18, 2009 by Archives

In the spirit of football season I have written a blog contrasting some positions in football to those of an eCommerce team. In the game of football there are different positions, the positions vary in skill and brain power, but when combined on a team, and in order for that team to succeed, they all need to work together. Without the skilled positions, you would not be able to play the game of football.  For example that would mean playing without a quarterback. There are also the lineman, not categorized as a skilled position, and by some considered to be the grunts of the team.

Now, lineman are not as “necessary” to playing football as the more skilled positions. To play a pickup game at the park no one is going to hold off kickoff to fill the lineman positions. Even competitive passing leagues don’t need lineman, but those aren’t as competitive as the major league. To play any serious, competitive football, the type that gets exposure, you need lineman, good lineman. Good lineman are absolutely needed for any serious team to win games and be successful.

There is a balance though, the better your skilled positions are the worse your lineman can be, because your stars will make plays and really stand out because of their skills. Conversely, the better the lineman, the better your skilled positions will look because they give the quarterback time to make that pass, they make the holes for your running back to run through, etc. Again, your skilled positions will stand out, because they are able to perform well. Being a lineman is a thankless job, they almost never get any glory, no adulation, and no recognition in comparison to other positions. Rarely does an offensive lineman make the highlight real unless he misses a block. To be part of the offensive line is also a tougher job than people realize, lineman have to know the playbook just as well as the running backs and be able to recognize and read the defense.

The job of data entry is much like being an offensive lineman. Data managers are expected to do their job correctly 100% of the time, there is no room for mistakes. There is an important reason for this though, data entry/lineman are the foundation. If something goes wrong with them, something goes wrong with everyone. Without the correct data/block you can't move the ball forward, you make it harder on the rest of the team. Data entry is a supporting position, the quality of their work has an effect on everyone else. So don't forget how important they are to the success of the company as a whole, and data entry people don't forget how important the quality of your work is and how important it is to everyone else.

 

 

First Hand Experience: A Lesson in PayPal Fraud

Posted on August 6, 2009 by Archives

PayPal a Force to be Reckoned With

With the rapid growth of online sales, there has also been a rapid growth in the number of people using PayPal. In fact Monday’s outage was a huge testament to the role that PayPal now plays in eCommerce.  Considering that sources like CNet revealed “The outage could be costly for those who rely on PayPal to handle e-commerce transactions. PayPal says about $2,000 in payments per second flows through the system, meaning that a one-hour outage would cut out about $7.2 million in commerce.” PayPal provides customers a safe and secure way to check out online.  PayPal allows customers to not only pay for items they purchase, but it allows users to transfer money between other PayPal users. PayPal accounts can be funded with an electronic debit from a bank account or by a credit card.

To access a PayPal account you need to have the username and password of the account. The username of a PayPal account is the main email address (primary email address) used to register the account. The owner of the account would also set up a password to be used along with the username to access the account. The security system is quite secure as long as the username and password of the PayPal account are known only to the actual owner of the account. If these details are available to anyone else it would mean that the security of that PayPal account could be compromised. Anyone acquiring the username and password of any PayPal account can access and perform all functions that the actual owner of the account could do. Although PayPal has a security key, PayPal identity scams have become more frequent. 

 

Account Exposed

I personally had an experience in which I had an eBay account and a PayPal account which was compromised. Someone sold fraudulent items under my eBay account (items they never intended to ship), linking my PayPal account to the sales.  They then collected the funds by transferring them from my account to theirs. When the eBay buyer realized their money was taken and no product was delivered, they started a claim with PayPal and in return the money was deducted out of my account!  I ended up not being liable after we fought the claims and PayPal did an investigation, but the accounts had to be closed and were no longer usable and it was a big hassle and I didn’t even realize that this was all going on until I saw debits coming out of our checking account.

There are a few ways that your PayPal account can be compromised. Being careless with your information is an obvious way for your account to be compromised. Writing down your information on paper or choosing a simple password, is another way. A common way the fraudster can get your PayPal information is by sending an email to the account owner notifying them of certain activity in their PayPal account. For these PayPal email scams to work, the receiver of the email is instructed to login to his or her PayPal account by clicking a link in the email. Once the user clicks the link in the email, he is taken to a web page that closely resembles a regular PayPal login page. This page is in fact a fake and is hosted by the fraudster (not PayPal) with the sole purpose of collecting confidential login details from the actual owner of the PayPal account.  These are referred to as fishing scams.

 

Account Protection

To avoid these types of PayPal fraud scams there are a few things you can do. One is to never use a simple password such as your first or last name, strong passwords should consist of a capital letter, a lowercase letter a number and a symbol if the service will allow all of the characters mentioned above to be used in the password. Two, never click links on emails to access your PayPal account. Also, type in the complete name of the PayPal website to the requested login, what you will see is that the URL is often a letter or two off or a play on words, for example www.playplal.com. Three, login to your account periodically and look for any strange or unexpected transactions.

The suggestions above will help you keep your PayPal account safe, while lowering the risk of your account being compromised.

 

Five Spreadsheet Formulas You Should Know and Use

Posted on July 2, 2009 by Archives

I stare at a spreadsheets most every hour at work, so there are a lot of spread sheet manipulations that take place on a daily basis. Here are five formulas that I find useful and I think you will too.

VLOOKUP()
Microsoft Office: VLOOKUP(lookup_value,table_array,col_index_num,range_lookup)
Open Office: VLOOKUP(lookupvalue; datatable; columnindex; mode)
VLOOKUP() is used to find the “lookup value” in a given table of values and returns the column identified by the “column index.” This formula I find invaluable, it is used any time there is multiple data sources and I need to match up data.

CONCATENATE()
Microsoft Office: CONCATENATE (text1,text2,...)
Open Office: CONCATENATE(text1; text2; ... text30)
CONCATENATE() combines the values of the given cells. I use this often to combine data to create product names according to our format. As a hint, to concatenate a space, put the space in quotes (“ “).

LEFT()/RIGHT()
Microsoft Office: LEFT(text,num_chars)
Open Office: RIGHT(text; number)
RIGHT() and LEFT() work similar to a sub string function in programming. The formulas start at the right or left side of a cell and then grab the number of characters specified in the formula, which can adjust the data to your specifications.

SEARCH()
Microsoft Office: SEARCH(find_text,within_text,start_num)
Open Office: SEARCH(findtext; texttosearch; startposition)
SEARCH() locate one text string within a second text string, and return the number of the starting position of the first text string from the first character of the second text string. SEARCH() can be very helpful when used in conjunction with LEFT() or RIGHT() when you want to get the contents of a cell to a certain character.

Text to Columns
Ok this one is not really a formula but it is a very useful tool. It allows you to break one column in to multiple columns by a common delimiter that you choose. Also you can choose “Fixed Width” and break up the column by width.

Differences between Open Office and Microsoft Office

For the most part the way that formulas work in Open Office and Microsoft Office work the same. There is a syntax difference in Open Office, instead of using commas (,) Open Office uses semi-colons (;) to separate the parts of the formula.

For additional information see the Open Office Formula Reference, and the Microsoft Office Formula Reference.

 

Strong Passwords: Router Botnet Screams Poor Security Practices

Posted on April 15, 2009 by Archives

A botnet named “psyb0t” has made recent news for being “The First Linux Botnet.”  Psyb0t is actually a worm that targets routers and DSL modems that run Linux, and might be the first of its kind. The worm “psyb0t” takes advantage of default and weak passwords on these embedded devices by using a dictionary attack. Then, after gaining access it installs itself and starts harvesting usernames and passwords from the user’s web traffic.

So it is not a vulnerability of Linux, or the software installed on the router, or DSL modem, but poor user or default passwords that provide the vulnerability. Many routers have their default password set to 1234, admin, or even blank.  As you can see these are certainly not very secure passwords.  To make a long story short, default passwords are insecure.

Whenever possible change default passwords and make sure everyone in your department has done so as well.  Every device connected to your network, including the printer, can be compromised and used to access your network.  This worm is a strong reminder that strong password standards not only apply to your computers but also embedded devices on your network.   default passwords are about as secure as an unlocked padlock

If you are unfamiliar with the term “strong password”, a strong password at minimum contains: a capital letter, a lowercase letter, a number and a character or symbol.  For more tips on strong passwords I recommend this articlePosters are available for those in IT that want to call attention to the importance of strong passwords. Just remember that default passwords are about as secure as an unlocked padlock.

 

Recreational Web Browsing: Surfing on the Clock, Not a Bad Thing?

Posted on April 6, 2009 by Archives

A recent study from the University of Melbourne goes against the pretense that personal website browsing at work negatively affects employee productivity. Dr. Brent Coker says, “People who do surf the Internet for fun at work - within a reasonable limit of less than 20% of their total time in the office - are more productive by about 9% than those who don’t... Firms spend millions on software to block their employees from watching videos on YouTube, using social networking sites like Facebook or shopping online under the pretense that it costs millions in lost productivity, however that’s not always the case.”

This recreational browsing helps prevent burn out by letting the mind rest. In the long run taking a break from time to time leads to a more focused concentration level for the tasks at hand that day. Some of the examples given were online banking, YouTube, social networking or sending a personal e-mail.

Though I agree with the study, there are some reasons why a business would want or need to control or limit the personal browsing of employees. One reason may be as simple as scheduling.  Take a call center for instance, in a call center proper phone coverage is necessary for day to day business activities.  While personal browsing may be good for overall productivity, if everyone in a given call center decided to start their personal browsing at the same time how successful would that call center be as employees adjust from personal activities to business tasks?  Could the company depend on these employees to make their personal activities second to what is going on at the company? Other concerns could be bandwidth issues.  Having multiple people watching video online could seriously diminish productivity to those still engaged in tasks associated with work.  Another issue to be wary of is the security hazards that can be associated with some social networking sites.

The key, as in most things, is moderation.  A little bit of personal browsing is most likely good in the workplace. A lot of browsing will most likely lead to a decrease in productivity and employers may not like it. On that note, be sure to check your workplace policy on browsing the web so you know the consequences of personal website interactions at work. Happy Browsing!