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Being out of work. PHP Consulting. Random geeky stuff. "I Blog Therefore I Am."

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Tuesday, April 23, 2002

Ask and Ye Shall Receive: Building a Distributed OPML Rendering System Cheap!

My solution (and if this makes no sense to you, don't worry).

comment [] 6:34:25 PM    

And Verity Gets Ruder and Ruder and Ruder.  Don't Buy Verity, Buy Autonomy or Something Else. 

UPDATE: You should really read this: Verity Update.  Quick Summary: I think I just had a bad experience with a Verity rep.  Another Verity folk saw it and took the time to treat me decently and honestly.  Ignore what I said about buying Autonomy off the bat.  Evaluate both and pick the right one for your needs.  Don't know how to evaluate search engines, drop me an email at and/or see

It seems like my recent lot in life is to be abused first by products and then by vendors.  It's just a bad week I guess.  Anyway, here's the latest travail.  Late last week (either Thursday or Friday) I called a Vito Cattilo with Verity because I have a consulting client that is talking to me about a KM project and I needed information about how their taxonomy works. 

The problems actually started when the Verity receptionist gave me his home, not office number.  His wife then nicely and helpfully gave me his office number and I left him a message.  It's now end of the day Tuesday and when he called, he didn't say he was "Vito with Verity" but just "Vito Catillo".  I had to ask him for his company name before I could recall who he was.  He wasn't too happy with this.  I then told him that I am a KM consultant in Boston and I have a client who I was evaluating technology for and I started to ask him some questions.  I asked him about "Portal One", the Verity KM offering. He told me (fairly rudely) that he knows nothing about that product and he sells "K2 Enterprise".  Ok.  Strange but Ok.  I then tried to find out if the company still offered the product and he told me that he didn't know. 

Now this is weird.  It's on their web site.  I tried to get answers on their basic taxonomy features (my client wants to know how many people can be involved in taxonomy creation).  He didn't really answer and then demanded to know who my client was.  I refused -- it's my client, not his.  He said "How do I know who you are?  You're 'Scott from Boston'".  I pointed out to him that I am a KM consultant and I spent 3 1/2 years building KM products for Dataware and can I just email him my resume and home page so he could see my credentials?  He then refused to give me his email when I wouldn't disclose the client's name.  At that point the conversation ended.

Has the world gone nuts?  Was rudeness as a sales approach newly condoned?  Is not knowing what products your company offers acceptable?

Here's what I'm going to do.

  1. Write this essay.
  2. Email it to Autonomy, Verity's biggest competitor
  3. Embed the name of the VP of Sales for Verity and CEO just below this so if they ever search for their own name it might come up. (they're in white text)
  4. Call the other client that I recommended Verity to yesterday and tell them "I was wrong, don't buy Verity.  Read this url."  (Even better, that client was in New York so it's Vito who loses the commission).
  5. Contemplate this some more. I'm still in shock.

Verity's CEO: Gary J. Sbona, Gary Sbona

Verity's VP of Sales: Joseph J. Lawless, Joseph Lawless

Verity's VP of Biz Dev: Michael D. Mooney, Michael Mooney

Autonomy's CEO: Michael Lynch

Autonomy's VP of Sales:

Autonomy's CFO: Sushovan Hussain

comment [] 5:04:26 PM    

And, So, Backup Comes to Mind

Well, it's a serious system crash.  The machine boots.  It works.  Mail i.e. Outlook 2000 is, well, interesting.  At least one file from Outlook was deleted (it's part of a COM addin that I'm getting ready to market for Outlook).  I turned the COM addin off but the performance time is atrocious so I'm not running the Office 2000 "Detect and Repair" facility.  We'll see how that works. 

Anyway, this makes me think about backup, of course.  Jim Seymour recently wrote a brilliant article on backup and I'm going to follow it to the letter.  His solution was brilliant in its simplicity:

  1. Buy big portable hard drive
  2. Copy everything on your box onto it
  3. Repeat when needed

I'd add just one thing to this.  If you are a consultant like I am you need to think about "How do I get offsite backup for when my house burns down (these things to happen and backup is cheap insurance).  Here's what I've always done.  Put the backup in your car, under the seat.  I used to do this with tapes but nothing stops you from doing it with a portable hard drive.  Get a padded bag for it or something but it still works.

Here's what he recommends.  The page looks stupid since Maxtor uses frames and there's no way to link directly without this.

UPDATE: It looks like I lost only 1 or 2 files, every open document and about 4 hours of time.  Not bad for a crash.  Not much data though.  Office even repaired the Outlook installation and my PST file is working (though I created a new once to be safe).

comment [] 11:19:28 AM    

The Cost of Restarting or Why Power Users / Hackers Get So Damn Angry at Microsoft

When I talk to a non geek and go off on an Anti Microsoft rant, they bemusedly tolerate it.  They never seem to quite get it though.  Here's why (and note that I'm writing on my laptop now SOLELY because my desktop is hung and I'm trying to restart it and its taking forever).  They basically think "Well computers crash.  Get over it.  What's the big deal?".  Here it is, fully documented.

  • We use our computers constantly.  I mean 16/7 for me (I sleep a bit, I do eat and I bathe but the rest of the time I'm coding or writing or emailing or something but its almost always in use).
  • Our time is valuable.  Its all we have and its damn valuable.  Here's the math.
    • Take an average geek making $75,000 per year
    • Assume he works 250 days per year (he does more but that's full time)
    • Assume his benefits (i.e. loaded cost) are worth 40% of base (that's standard) so $30,000
    • Total Cost to the Company: $105,000
    • If you do the math, that translates to 87.5 cents per minute.  Non one works 100% of a full hour, 8 hours straight but let's keep it simple
    • A typical restart takes 5 minutes to save every open document, shut down, restart.  Yours may vary but I use a lot of Windows so saving everything takes a while.  5 * .875 = $4.375.  That's stolen from me or my company whenever stupid Microsoft Windows errors force me to restart.
    • Now, that's not all folks.  I'm a developer.  I think for a living and it takes me a while, about 30 minutes, to get in and out of the coding zone where I'm productive.  This is a pretty well documented productivity issue with developers.  It's well understood and it's real.  Let's factor that in now.  Please note that some developers take less, some take more but this is probably average.
    • 30 *.875 is $26.25.  $26.25 + $4.375 is a total of $30.625 stolen from me per restart. 
    • Let's extrapolate, we're on a roll here.  Assume 3 restarts per week.  Certainly not uncommon given Microsoft's well documented stability problems.  That's a total of $91.875 per week that me or my company gives away in lost productivity due to inept development practices at Microsoft.  Hey, Solaris or even Linux doesn't crash like this.  I might have to shut down X but I still don't have to restart and I can almost always just kill a program, not restart the whole damn thing.  And, yeah, I do run Windows 2000 not XP.  Guess what?  I no longer trust Microsoft as a vendor.  They've been failing on the issue of building a reliable operating system since DOS was released.  As far as I'm concerned, the only way I'm going to XP is when they give it to me for free.  Why do I have to upgrade because they are incompetent at writing software.  Do any of us really think that it is going to get better?  Thousands of free, unpaid Linux people write stable stuff every single day.  Why does that work but Microsoft can't?  (Why God Why! he screams.)
    • Now, let's take that out over a year long period.  50 weeks per year makes this $4,593.75.  That's per developer you employ. 
    • If you employ 10 software engineers, this is effectively costing you $45,000 plus per year.  And, remember, I'm assuming that your engineers are glued to a keyboard every minute of every 8 hour day.  You know that's not true so this number is higher.

Oh, my last restart that led to this rant required a full check disk so I've been waiting for 15 minutes plus this time (and its only at 55 percent now).  Don't even get me started on the costs of this restart.  I can't bear to think about it.  Yes, I do have a second computer to use but that's not the point.  Do you buy every engineer in your company a second computer?  I thought not.

Makes you think, huh...

comment [] 8:48:11 AM    

Why a Blog is Good: Honesty

A snippet from an IM session last night:

Russ BigDog: anyway, you're not nuts and I admire your willingness to be real online ....
fuzzygroup: well, at least i'm not nuts.  thanks for at least establishing that.
fuzzygroup: what good is a dishonest blog?
fuzzygroup: that's called "marketing"
Russ BigDog: haha
Russ BigDog: VERY true

Sure some blogs are probably full of crap.  I bet most aren't.  I also bet that most people can tell the difference in between 3 to 5 reads.  People may not know why something is dishonest, but they know honesty when they read it.  People aren't dumb -- they may be different from you but they aren't dumb.

NOTE: At different points in my career, I used to have business cards reading: Director of Product Marketing, Director of Marketing, Vice President of Marketing.  I was a marketing (drone).

comment [] 7:06:40 AM    

And So I Defeat Double Click Again

I've document by "Stupid Ad Busting" technique here before but its so nice to surf a site at 6 am, get a pop up ad and see this:

Yup. That's a double click ad window with no ad.  Makes you feel all warm and fuzzy!  And, no, I didn't run or any other ad blocker.  Any person with a Windows or Mac computer can do this themselves, no software needed, just edit your hosts file.  My hosts file is below.  Just add these entries to your hosts file

If this doesn't make sense to you then email me, and I'll send you full directions.

comment [] 6:59:55 AM    

Thanks Dave.  You Gave Me a Persistent Voice!

What has to be the most satisfying thing about blogging for me is that I now have a persistent voice.  Last night's essay about child porn on Microsoft web sites and their pathetic response to it made me realize that being able to publicly comment and know that (someday) your commentary will make it into Google is, well, satisfying.  Rather than just sending emails to a senator which will either get ignored or read once, acted on and then ignored, I've now made a persistent contribution to an issue.  That's pretty damn cool.  On a lot of things I write about, whether or not anyone else ever sees it, isn't all that important.  To think that perhaps I have made a long lasting contribution to an important issue?  That's awesome.  Hopefully, by the time that Google spiders this blog, whenever anyone searches for "Child Porn MSN" they'll find my article.  They'll also find this:

Apparently MSN has a history of lackluster response until the press publicly flames them.  Sheesh! 

At least I now have a persistent voice for when it matters.  Thanks Dave!  You've made the world a better place (truly).

NOTE: For new bloggers, Dave means Dave Winer, a blog pioneer,


comment [] 6:51:19 AM    

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