Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Reflecting on goals from 2008

Last December I stumbled across the Personal MBA, self-paced business education program. I came to know about the PMBA through Lifehacker. In January I made the commitment to "start" the program and gave it a decent amount of attention throughout the year. While I did not go into any details around my commitment, internally I was thinking 1 book per month and active participation in the PMBA online community.

I am happy to say that I exceeded my personal goal and actually read 20 books, 18 from the PMBA recommendations and 2 of my own picks. The online community participation part was a little less successful. I gave it a go, but it does not seem like people are all that interested in sharing all to much...I gave up on the community in about April. I will have to get back to that in 2009.

Part of my other commitment was to blog "book reports" as I progressed throughout the year. Well the blogging part never made it passed February. I hope to make amends to that goal and blog about the books that I missed from 2008 this January.

Here is my completed list thus far:
  • How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
  • The Dip by Seth Godin (book summary)
  • StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath (book summary)
  • The Little Green Book of Getting Your Way by Jeffrey Gitomer
  • The Little Red Book of Selling by Jeffrey Gitomer
  • The Practice of Management by Peter F. Drucker
  • All Marketers Are Liars by Seth Godin (book summary)
  • The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss
  • 12: The Elements of Great Managing by Rodd Wagner & James Harter (book summary)
  • First, Break All The Rules by Marcus Buckingham & Curt Coffman (book summary)
  • Growing Great Employees by Erika Andersen (book summary)
  • The Halo Effect by Phil Rosenzweig
  • Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath (book summary)
  • The Personality Code by Travis Bradberry (book summary)
  • Seeing What's Next by Clayton M. Christensen, Erik A. Roth, Scott D. Anthony
  • Bit Literacy by Mark Hurst
  • Getting Everything You Can Out of All You've Got by Jay Abraham
  • Getting Things Done by David Allen (Audiobook)
  • Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham
  • Raving Fans by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles (book summary)
So has the PMBA program helped me thus far? You bet! My attitude toward business and work greatly improved, so much that I quit my dead-end job at CDC Software, and leveraged my new found skills to land a position at Salesforce.com. I have to say that I am much more positive and feel like I grew professionally as part of my participation in the program.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

SDV channels now available on TiVo S3 in Austin TX

Here is a list of HD channels that are now available on TiVo Series 3 and TiVo HD using the Time Warner supplied "Tuning Adapter". In addition to these HD channels, there are also a handful of digital channels made available with the adapter.

1507 News 8 Non-Stop Weather HD
1509 News 8 Non-Stop Sports HD
1512 KVUE 2
1542 KLRU - Create TV
1615 TLC HD
1618 Discovery Channel HD
1620 National Geographic HD
1621 ABC Family HD
1622 Animal Planet HD
1624 Science Channel HD
1626 The History Channel HD
1630 CNN HD
1632 Fox News Channel HD
1633 The Weather Channel HD
1634 Fox Business News HD
1636 ESPN2 High Definition
1637 ESPN News HD
1639 Fox Sports - HD
1640 Big Ten HD
1646 Versus/Golf Channel HD
1653 TBS in HD
1654 TNT HD
1655 Travel Channel HD
1658 Lifetime Movie Network HD
1659 Hallmark Movie Channel HD
1660 A&E HD
1661 BIO HD
1664 Palladia

How to get signed up for a SDV Tuning Adapter in Austin TX

Many Time Warner customers are being told that the SDV Tuning Adapters are still being tested. As I previously stated, I picked up mine yesterday, so I don't know what the "still testing" bit is all about. They certainly could not have run out of boxes, at the South Austin location (730 W. Stassney Lane), they had a stack of 50 or so behind the counter.

Do what I did, follow this link, at the bottom of the page you will see a link that says "You can order a FREE Tuning Adapter now by filling out a an order form." (Please note the grammatical error is theirs not mine.)

Anyhow, fill out the form and you will receive a call back in a few days, for me it took about 4 weeks, but this is before they had actually received any devices.

Good luck!

Monday, December 29, 2008

TiVo S3 SDV Tuning Adapter Installation

A week back or so I received a response from Time Warner regarding my request for a Switched Digital Video (SDV) "Tuning Adapter". This device allows my cable-card equipped TiVo Series 3 to receive certain channels that were previously blocked.

In summary, while I still consider it a hassle to have to obtain such a device, I am happy for the time being. Previously, about a dozen or so HD channels were not viewable through my TiVo S3.

Here is my story in pictures:



Step 1: Go to your local Time Warner office and pick up a SDV Tuning adapter.
Step 2: Directions are minimalistic, so throw them away
Step 3: Power everything down (specifically the TiVo)
Step 3: Cable from the wall to the tuning adapter, then from the tuning adapter to the TiVo S3
Step 4: Power the TiVo and the Tuning Adapter up
Step 5: Call Time Warner and have them activate the device
Step 6: Relax and enjoy

Start to finish, roughly 1 hour

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Free Plug-Ins for Adobe Premiere Elements 3, 4, and 7

My ongoing quest for all that is free lead me to several free plug-ins for Adobe Premiere Elements. I have been an Avid user of PE since version 1. While I love the user friendliness, as compared to Premiere Pro and other apps in this space, I have always been frustrated with the limited transitions and video effects.

Here are a few free things to spruce up your videos:
NewBlueFX Cartoonr - A freebee from NewBlueFX - Available for any version of Premiere Elements, not to mention, Premiere Pro, Avid, Final Cut, Pinnacle, Vegas and Ulead. All you need to do is register it and they will send you and activation code via email.

Burger Transitions - Some, but not all are compatible with PE3, 4 and 7. However you should copy these files into the directpry C:\Program Files\Adobe\Adobe Premiere Elements 3.0\Plug-ins\en_US as opposed to C:\Program Files\Adobe\Premiere 6.x\Plug-ins as instructed by the website. I have found that the following work:
fx-Burger01 - Crossfade
fx-Burger06 - Rays
fx-Burger10 - Spiral
fx-Burger11 - Dream
fx-Burger13 - Curtain
fx-Burger16 - Radar
fx-Burger17 - Mosaic
fx-Burger18 - Marbles
fx-Burger19 - Dream 2
fx-Burger21 - Cuboids_II
fx-Burger22 - Logo
fx-Burger23 - Bloom
fx-Burger24 - Firestorm

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Is Cloud Computing the "New Black"?

Everyone is jumping on the Cloud Computing bandwagon. Is there a silent revolution underway? Is Cloud Computing the "New Black"? or is this the natural evolution of the Internet?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

My Favorite "Free" Vista Utilities

Name & Website

What it does

Why its good for Vista

Why its free

Secunia PSI

https://psi.secunia.com/

Helps you secure Windows XP and Vista by ensuring that all programs are up to date. Scans your PC for all installed programs, provides information related to the current installed version and well as the current published version.

Many programs and utilities required some level of updating to provide compatibility with Vista. In addition, it is great at finding duplicate programs that you might not even know that you have.

Personal edition (PSI) is free, however there is also a commercial Network-aware version targeted towards corporations.

Tags: Security, Application Stability, Performance


Driver Detective

http://www.drivershq.com/

Helps keep Windows XP and Vista running smoothly by scanning your PC for installed hardware and validating that you have the most recent device driver installed.

Driver compatibility has been one of the chief complaints with Windows Vista. While Windows Update will find “some” updates, Driver Detective does a much more through job of finding outdated and missing drivers.

The scanning part is free, however in order to view details of the problems that Driver Detective finds and to automatically install solutions, registration is required.

Tags: Security, OS Stability, Performance


TweakNow RegCleaner Standard

http://www.tweaknow.com/

Finds and removes obsolete registry entries in both Windows XP and Vista. This helps keep Windows running fast and without issues.

Post-Vista upgrade, there will almost certainly be some leftovers in your registry. In addition, if you are shareware/freeware junkie like me, you may have installed more then a few unscrupulous or poorly written apps that can be challenging to completely remove.

While they are not obnoxious about it, Tweaknow would love you to upgrade to RegCleaner Pro for $26.95. The Pro version sports a an enhanced scanning engine, a registry defragmenter and a 1-click optimization function.

Tags: Security, OS Stability, Performance


Auslogics Registry Defrag

http://www.auslogics.com/

After years of installing and removing programs, not to mention after running your RegCleaner, your registry file will eventually contain large gaps which can negatively impact system performance

After running TweakNow RegCleaner Standard, a defrag is the next logical step.

While TweakNow gives away RegCleaner for free and would like you to pay for post cleaning defragmentation in the Pro version, Auslogics does the exact opposite. Take advantage of both free tools and save some cash.

Tags: Security, OS Stability, Performance


Auslogics Disk Defrag

http://www.auslogics.com/

Your hard disks is the slowest component in your computer. Microsoft still trails behind OSX and Linux with respect to automated defragmentation of the HD. The bottom line is that the built-in Windows Defrag utility still sucks. It is slow and not particularly through.

For years I used Diskeeper Pro, most notably because of its “Set It and Forget It” Screen saver mode. Alas my version (8.0) is not compatible with Vista. I just can’t force myself to part with $49 for the 10.0 upgrade.

While it lacks a Screen Saver mode, I will continue to use this for the time being.

Auslogics gives you both Registry Defrag and Disk Defrag in order to persuade you to buy Auslogics BoostSpeed for $29.95.

Tags: Security, OS Stability, Performance


Avast! Antivirus Home Edition

http://www.avast.com/

Award winning, fast, non-intrusive, and free virus protection, need I say more? All that Avast! requires is that you register with a valid email address and revalidate annually.

After years of frustration with the performance of both Norton and McAfee, I stumbled upon Avast! And never looked back.

While the Home edition of Avast! Is free, the Pro version will set you back $39.95 per year.

Tags: Antivirus


7-Zip File Manager

http://www.7-zip.org/

Manages archives of nearly any format (ZIP, TAR, RAR, CAP, etc.)

Faster then the included Windows Vista compressed folders, also provides compatibility with formats beyond ZIP.

Open Source

Tags: Archive, Zip, File Compression


DAEMON Tools Lite

http://www.disc-tools.com/

Free CD/DVD Emulation. Make a backup (ISO) copy of your CDs, then store them in a safe place. When you need to run something from one of the CDs, mount the ISO image on a virtual CD.

Works with both XP and Vista

While the Lite version is free, they would like you to upgrade to the Pro version.

Tags: Virtual CD, Virtual DVD, ISO


FileZilla

http://filezilla-project.org/

The Free FTP solution, provides an excellent FTP file download utility.

Works with both XP and Vista. The built-in ftp capabilities of Internet Explorer prohibit management of user profiles and have no ability to pause and resume downloads.

Open Source

Tags: FTP, Download


PDF Creator

http://www.pdfforge.org/

Create PDF files using a virtual printer driver

Works with both XP and Vista

Open Source

Tags: Document Management, Paperless Office


PDF Tools

http://sheelapps.com/

Allows you join, split, stamp, create and rearrange a PDF files

The User Interface leaves something to be desired but it works with both XP and Vista

While PDF Tools is closed source, Sheel Khanna wrote this free app in his spare time, just for the fame and glory.

Tags: Document Management, Paperless Office


Foxit Reader

http://www.foxitsoftware.com/

Lightweight and fast PDF Reader. Highly compatible with the standard Adobe Reader and super fast! 2.5 MB download versus 27 MB, need I say more?

Works with both XP and Vista

The Foxit Reader is free, however they would like you to purchase the Foxit Reader Pro Pack, Form Designer, PDF Creator and Editor and prices ranging from $35 - $99.

Tags: Document Management, Paperless Office


Monday, February 25, 2008

Book Review: Growing Great Employees

The subtitle of this book is "Turning Ordinary People into Extraordinary Performers". Quite of lofty task indeed!

In Growing Great Employees, Erika Andersen provides some wonderful insight for building and maintaining great teams.

However, if you are like me, the gardening metaphor will grow tiresome after a while. Beyond this, the major topics of the book are:


  1. There is no such thing as a successful one-minute gardener. You must pick the right new hires, constantly maintain them and know when to make cuts.
  2. When you make a hire, you must prepare the "soil" and foster a perfect start. This requires developing your listening skills to include understanding, not just hearing.
  3. Maintain a coach mindset
  4. Don't be afraid to prune
  5. Re-evaluate what is working and what is not

Monday, February 11, 2008

PersonalDNA

According to the PersonalDNA website I am a "Respectful Inventor.

You are an Inventor
  • Your imagination, self-reliance, openness to new things, and appreciation for utility combine to make you an INVENTOR.
  • Confidence to make your visions into reality, and you are willing to consider alternatives
  • Not limited by pre-conceived notions of how things should be.
  • Problem-solving is a specialty
  • It is more interesting for you to pursue excitement than it is to get caught up in a routine.
  • Specialize in seeing the bigger picture and don't get caught up in specifics.
  • You tend to more proactive than reactive—you don't just wait for things to come to you.
  • Generally, you believe that you control your life.
You are Respectful
  • Your reserved nature, understanding of the world, and faith in others make you RESPECTFUL.
  • Tend not to get involved in other people's affairs.
  • Relationships you do have are very meaningful and important to you.
  • You tend to enjoy the world through ideas and reflection
  • Your friends would describe you as laid-back and easy-going.
  • As someone who is calm and centered

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Book Review: The Personality Code


Book Review: The Personality Code by Travis Bradberry

Like many others, I was skeptical of this book. In retrospect it really helped me understand myself and why I do the things that I do.

The book starts with the fascinating tale of identical twins that were separated at birth and reunited 40 years later.Goes on to explain their similarities in life choices and how their personalities match. Being the father of twins, I get to experience this on a daily basis.

Through a variety of real life stories coupled with deep analysis, the personality code is a winner.

Unfortunately where things fell short for me was the online analysis of my personality profile. The online at http://www.personalitycode.com/ assessment identified me as an Entrepreneur. This certainly opened my eyes, however the resulting personalized profile and action plan was largely a rehash of the book. I guess that I was expecting more.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Book Review: 12: The Elements of Great Managing

Book Review of 12: The Elements of Great Managing

Following up on the success of First Break all the Rules, "12", by Rodd Wagner and James Harter is a fantastic read. The title represents the 12 elements of work life help explain workers' motivations and productivity.

Without giving away the specifics, these elements include understanding your job and what is expected of you, having the opportunity to success, receiving acknowledgement of a job well done. having friends at work that foster your growth and honestly care about your well being, and having the chance to grow as a professional

All the insights provided in the book are backed with empirical evidence and case studies. The science of the book is well explained for the layman and the focus of the book expands beyond North America into and incorporates international perspectives.

Each of the 12 chapters in the book begins with a case study correlating to one of the Elements. The chapters then follow through with solution or realization of the Elements in action. The massive research undertaking by Gallup is well represented and factual with ties into the modern workplace.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Book Review: Made to Stick

Book review of Made to Stick

Providing warmly entertaining blend of case studies and startling research, Chip and Dan Heath define and enlighten us with the decisive elements of a sticky idea:
  1. Simple
  2. Unexpected
  3. Concrete
  4. Credible
  5. Emotional
  6. Stories
Time and time again, the authors drive home their point using these very techniques. Drawing from real world examples, such as Subway's Jared campaign, JFK's Man on the Moon speech, Disney's Cast Members, and Sony's quest for a "Pockatable Radio", their writing style provides ample opportunity to stop and ponder how to make your next great idea "stick".

While these six elements seem like common sense, they are rarely applied in business communication. For example, on an almost daily basis, countless executives sit through hours of presentations, only to retain exactly nothing. Compare this to the drama of a Steve Jobs keynote.

Well researched, easy to read and hard to forget, strongly recommended!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Book Review: Raving Fans

Side Reading: Raving Fans

While not part of the Personal MBA reading list, I recently attended a conference, hosted by my company, which focused primarily on Professional Services. As part of the theme of the event, all attendees received a copy of "Raving Fans" by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles.

This book might spark a few ideas for your business, however don't expect too much because the authors unfortunately fail dive deeply into any one topic. The book can be distilled down into 3 interrelated points:
  • Decide what you want: Define your vision of your company's relationship with the customer.
  • Discover what your customer wants: Figure out what your customer really wants
  • Deliver the vision, plus 1 percent: You customer needs are most likely not static, so you need to consistently improve to maintain your lead
This is all fairly elementary, however it is the kind of stuff that we often take for granted. While I would not necessarily recommend this book to a friend, I would recommend as part of an introduction to the service business course.

Personally, I would have been disappointed overall, however our week long conference ended with a guest speaker from Ken Blanchard's consulting company which really let the material become more personal.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Book Review: First, Break All the Rules

Book review of First, Break All the Rules: What the World's Greatest Managers Do Differently

This was the first book that I picked up as part of the Personal MBA program. Well actually, this was one of the many books that I had sitting on the shelf. After discovering the Personal MBA, I look over at my bookshelf and it was just sitting there staring at me.

My only regret is that I did not read this book sooner, this was an outstandingly researched book, Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman tell a great story and it really hit home with me. Buckingham and Coffman base their findings on 25 years of data collected by the Gallup Organization. Their data samples 80 thousand managers and over a million employees from 400 companies. The concepts are well explained and presented.

The book can be summarized into the discovery of the 4 keys of great managers:

1. Select for talent - the authors define talent as "recurring patterns of behavior" and state that great managers find the match between talents and roles.

2. Define the right outcomes - managers needs to turn talent into performance. This can be done by defining the right outcomes and letting people find their own route toward the outcomes.

3. Focus on strengths - managers need to concentrate on strengths and not on weaknesses.

4. Find the Right Fit - managers need to assign roles to employees that give the employees the greatest chance of success.

I highly recommend “First, Break All the Rules” to any current or future manager. The great thing about this book is that after reading it, I participated in a similar survey (StrengthFinder 2.0). I can’t wait to read additional books based on the Gallup surveys and these authors.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Book Review: All Marketers Are Liars


Review of "All Marketers Are Liars"

I just finished reading All Marketers Are Liars, as part of my quest for a Personal MBA. In this book Seth Godin paints an excellent depiction of what works and what fails in modern marketing. The premise of the book is that if you can craft a compelling and honest story, you can market your product (or service).

Successful marketers don't talk about features or benefits, they tell a story. While this story might only appeal to a particular segment of the market, to this market the story is believable and genuine and ultimately will make your product sell.

This was a wonderful read, you can now officially color me a fan of Godin.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Book Review: Strengths Finder 2.0


I recently read StrengthsFinder 2.0, by Tom Wrath, and completed the online assessment. While the specifics of my top themes (Adaptability, Futuristic, Activator, Relator and Self-Assurance) were insightful, I did not find the book to be particularly enlightening. However, there is value in this book if you study it.

This is not a book that you read in the traditional sense, rather one that you review periodically to refocus yourself and devise plans for personal growth.

When I first revised my personal Strengths Discovery, I thought “that’s not me”. However the after several weeks, things started to hit home.

  • Adaptability – “Now” people that discover the future one day at a time.
  • Futuristic – People inspired by the future and what could be.
  • Activator – People talented at turning thought into action.
  • Relator – People that enjoy close relationships with others.
  • Self-Assurance – People that feel comfort in managing their own lives.

From this top 5 list, Futuristic, Activator and Self-Assurance were dead-on depictions of my persona. However Adaptability and Relator stuck out as somewhat incorrect for me.

Reading further, the Relator theme does indeed describes me, while I don’t have a large group of friends, the ones that I have are very close to me. Similarly, Adaptability – Flexibility, dealing with the day’s challenges as they unfold, making decisions without being required to seek approval from others.

So it seems that my profile is indeed accurate.

Now what to do with this knowledge? In a future post, I will review “First Break All the Rules”, in my case I happened to read this book first and the planets are starting to align. This particular book is based on the same Gallop research as StrengthFinder, for me the order of reading with great First Break All the Rules set up numerous examples of how great leaders focus on their strengths to success in their profession, now that StrengthFinder help me identify mind I can start taking action.

Over the coming weeks and months, I will strive to refine these talents and see where things take me…

Thursday, January 10, 2008

New Year and a New Goal



January is always a good time to look back at the previous year and ponder self-improvement. The trouble is that by the end of January, all those resolutions have gone out the window.

This year I want to make a change that sticks!

I have been pondering an MBA for many years and I came to the conclusion that a traditional MBA program was probably not in the cards for me. So in December I started researching a number of Executive MBA programs (nights and weekends) as well as some of the online.

Perhaps one of these options might accommodate my educational desires and help keep balanced at home.

Unfortunately, the commitment to an eMBA or an online MBA still seemed too restrictive. Managing my career, maintaining a healthy marriage and helping raise twin coupled with a a 1-2 year MBA program seemed impossible. In all cases I really just could not justify putting my consulting career "on hold" while pursuing academics.

Still, my chosen profession and current career level often expose some of my educational weaknesses.

My story might ring true with you as well. I have been in the software consulting business for 15 years and managed to "climb the ladders" without any formal post graduate study. I am currently a Services VP, managing a team 100 spread across the globe. I love my job, but find it difficult to perform some of the basics, like deciphering financial reports and writing contracts, without a lot of research and Googleing.

Then, in early January, I stumbled across Josh Kaufman' s Personal MBA and timeliness was downright uncanny. I am optimistic that the Personal MBA will help me guide my career and help me to the next level.

After reviewing the Personal MBA Manifesto, I took the bull by the horns and have already plowed through 3 of the recommended readings in no particular order (First, Break All the Rules, Strengths Finder 2.0 and The Little Green Book of Getting Your Way). I have since order the remaining titles in the "quick start section" and everything in the management section.


To help keep myself on track, I resolve to stay on the program and blog my progress.

Wish me luck!