Tuesday, December 30, 2008

In defense of the home based office

Presto Vivace has always been a home based business. I like the commute. It is getting more common, and the current down turn will grow in its appeal. I am told that more than half of IBM’s employee’s work form their homes.

One of my clients, ERS, decided to become a virtual corporation when their rent was raised and they realized that a corporate office didn’t add any significant value to the company. The internet has made offices obsolete for many businesses.

Cutting your rent frees up money to retain your employees maintain all other aspects of your business. It is a good way to survive in a down economy.

Monday, December 22, 2008

New to me local business blog


Federal market may be limited

Kim Hart as a report on NVTC's recent panel discussion on surviving the current downturn. The consensus seems to be that the Federal market can no longer be depended upon to keep local technology businesses afloat.

Federal sales cycles typically take three times as long a the commercial market. Certainly the Federal market offers no short term fix.

Edit -
A cheerier view.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Question for Jeremy Pepper

Jeremy Pepper
But, if your PR firm or PR person has time to post in the middle of the day, you really should question what they are doing for you.

Well, if we are to question the value of those who have time to post in the middle of the day, what are we to make of those who have time to organize an entire online conference ;-)

In defense of smile and dial

Jeremy Pepper: In defence of Lois Whitman
But, I'm here to defend Lois - not necessarily because I think she deserves to be defended, but because PR people are missing the bigger issue. It's another typical attack on PR, and not necessarily warranted.

Online public shaming is just too easy. It can easily descend to the level of cyber bullying. It is just a question of time before this happens to all of us. Sooner or later we are going to offend someone who wants to make themselves look big at our expense.

I have rarely placed a story without making phone calls; so I keep making them. I hope I pitch them to the relevant reporter, but seriously, without a beat list it is not always clear which reporter should get the story.

Note to reporters and editors - why you should read that boring press release.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

How to retain employees in hard times

Crisis Survical Kit: How To Cut Costs Without Layoffs

Jason Zickerman, president and CEO of business coaching group The Alternative Board shared a number of techniques with CNN and ConnectIT:

1. Have employees shorter work weeks at reduced pay. Cutting the work week from 5 days to 4 days will shrink payroll expenses by 20% (not counting benefits).

2. Encourage employees to take unpaid sabbaticals

3. Offer buyouts

4. Extend unpaid year-end breaks

5. Offer -- or even mandate -- unpaid vacation time

6. Swap or loan out employees to other businesses that may need temporary project or seasonal help.

Excellent advice. These hard times will pass. Those who retain their employees now will have loyal workers when the next boom comes. Job security means a lot. Workers are for more likely to refrain for looking for higher paying jobs if they feel their present one is secure and they feel valued.

Compliance Week

PR Week has a new publication, Compliance Week. I predict it will be a big success in the current environment.

I am a little disappointed that they did not send this blogger an announcement of their publication. Compliance is an issue this blog has concentrated on.

Correction; from the comments:
For the record, Compliance Week is not a publication of PR Week, nor is it new. Compliance Week has been producting newsletters, a print magazine, conferences, and events since before Sarbanes-Oxley. In July 2008, it was acquired by UK media company Haymarket Media. Haymarket also owns PR Week, but there is no direct link between CW and PRW. Thanks.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Who owns Potomac Twitter

Out of curiosity I checked my Twitter rank. To my absolute astonishment, I am the fourth most popular voice on Twitter amongst Potomac based Twitters. I have worked very hard to cultivate the local audience and it appears that I have succeeded. Thanks to all who follow, I hope I have provided something worthwhile, 140 characters at a time.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Great moments in records management policies

FOX 5 Reporter Snags McCain Campaign Blackberry Loaded with Info
Thompson reports that one Blackberry she purchased from the campaign for $20 "contained more than 50 phone numbers for people connected with the McCain-Palin campaign, as well as hundreds of emails from early September until a few days after election night."

Just another little reminder that email is not private.

How to help a reporter out

Throw them a link, send them some page views. These are hard times in the news business, every single copy sale, every subscription, every page view, every unique hit counts.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

New to me local social netowrking blog

Capitol Creativity Network Blog
Check out the black background and tiny font.

New to me local tech blog

News, events, & resources for infosec professionals in Northern Virginia

New to me local IT blog

How is that Assurance Evidence?

New to me local social media blog

Social Media Strategery, By Steve Radick of Booz Allen Hamilton.

BearingPoint has a blog

Somehow this had previously escaped my notice.

New Thinking for a changing world.
BearingPoint is pleased to launch this blog to tap into new thinking wherever it resides. We’ll share ideas from some of our own best thinkers, but we’re opening up this online stage to everyone to foster a dialogue on the issues that matter most to today’s organizations.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Why “Balisage”? Because that’s the way we say “Markup” in Montréal!

Call for Participation
Balisage: The Markup Conference 2009

Balisage is a peer reviewed conference designed to meet the needs of markup theoreticians and practitioners who are pushing the boundaries of the field. It's all about the markup: how to create it; what it means; hierarchies and overlap; modeling; taxonomies; transformation; query, searching, and retrieval; presentation and accessibility; making systems that make markup dance (or dance faster to a different tune in a smaller space) — in short, changing the world and the web through the power of marked-up information.

August 11 — 14, 2009
August 10, 2009 — International Symposium on Processing XML Efficiently
Montréal, Canada

To Participate

We welcome papers about topic maps, document modeling, markup of overlapping structures, ontologies, metadata, content management, and other markup-related topics at Balisage. If you want to talk, in detail, XML, XSL, SGML, LMNL, XSL-FO, XTM, RDF, XQuery, Topic Maps, SVG, MathML, OWL, UBL, XSD, TexMECS, RNG, or any other markup-related topic, we urge you to participate in Balisage.


Submit full papers in XML to info@balisage.net
Guidelines, DTDs, schemas, and details at http://www.balisage.net/submissions.html

Apply to the Peer Review panel


15 March 2009 — Peer Review Applications Due
24 April 2009 — Paper Submissions Due
22 May 2009 — Speakers Notified
17 July 2009 — Revised Papers Due
10 August 2009 — Processing Symposium
11–14 August 2009 — Balisage: The Markup Conference

Please help us make Balisage: The Markup Conference exciting and lively. See you in Montréal!

Przemek Klosowski talks about Linux, Open Source software and DCLUG

Przemek Klosowski serves as Meeting Coordinator for The Washington DC area Linux User Group.

How did you get interested in Linux?

I work at a government research lab (NCNR/NIST), and we have been using a whole range of computers, VMS, Unix, DOS/Windows, Macintoshes. I started back in the late eighties, and I always  liked the flexibility of Unix but back in that time they were quite expensive. We used remote graphics XWindows terminals to talk to our few machines in the air-conditioned computer room. Black-and-white Xterms were quite affordable, but color Xterms seemed to be out of reach. Sometime around 1993 I thought "why not use a PC-based Unix boxes to do local and remote computing".

There were two available choices then: BSD and Linux.  BSD had excellent networking capabilities but Linux was ahead with the X Windows graphics. Once the Linux kernel got a rewritten decent networking stack, we just threw our lot with Linux and never looked back.

Initially we used Linux mostly for straight computing and communications, but the flexibility was so tempting that we adopted it for hardware data acquisition, connecting Linux to a variety of data collecting hardware, using serial ports, Ethernet, USB, GPIB, VME and other methods. It worked beautifully for us; we were among the original major users of Linux in a large scientific laboratory, and our accomplishments were featured on the cover of Linux Journal:  http://www.linuxjournal.com/issue/51

We also were recognized and awarded for spearheading the introduction of Free and Open Source Software in a Government environment.

How did DCLUG get started?

Early on I understood that Linux is as strong as the community of people that work on it. Since everything in Linux is a result of someone solving their problem and making the solution available to others, it seemed like a great idea to organize a local group where people could meet and talk and help each other. I posted signs in the area geek watering holes (computer stores, libraries, schools/universities) and to my delight our first meeting in July 1994 ended up overflowing the meeting room in the Gaithersburg library.

Later we found a larger meeting room at the NIH campus in Bethesda, and since the NIH campus was locked down after 9/11 we meet in downtown DC.

Do you do joint projects with other local Linux groups?

There is a gaggle of Linux User Groups in the area. We (DCLUG) cover the DC proper and suburban Maryland. NoVaLUG covers Northern Virginia, from Alexandria to Dulles Airport, and there are groups at various schools in the area, as well as in Baltimore. We formed a loose federation of LUGs in the official non-profit corporation TUX.org, and we had a multitude of common projects. For instance, early on we have been running Linux Installfests, where we'd help people install and improve Linux on their machines. It used to be much more difficult, because of the lower download speeds, and various compatibility issues. It certainly is nice now to be able to plop a CD into most computers and just boot Ubuntu or Fedora.

We participate in computer expositions, such as the FOSE  government computing trade show, and the Congressional Internet Expo, and in ad hoc computer events such as the Mapping Parties and encryption key signing parties. Our members sometimes take up public positions on important current events such as DRM, Net Neutrality, and other technology-related issues that affect their professional and personal lives. People have petitioned and presented themselves before various government bodies in hearings and demonstrations. Even more importantly, we try to educate and spread the awareness of all the good technology that is associated with FOSS software and Linux.

How, if any, has it changed over the years? Have the changes in the Linux industry been reflected in the local group?

Linux used to be a guerilla technology. Now that it is in the mainstream, there is less accent on development, and more on sound implementation practices, so I noticed that we have more sysadmin type members than developers. It used to be much more difficult to install and run Linux, so we have less installfest-like events, and more members that participate mainly on the discussion groups and mailing lists.

Why do you think interest in Linux has grown? What are the chief barriers to adoption?

The Freedom aspect is without any doubt the main attraction of Linux. I am  a pragmatist, and I am mostly interested in finding practical solutions to technological problems. Linux has been for me a wonderful experience where I could apply my knowledge to find and develop solutions that work in the long term. There is very little of the 'two steps forward one step back' oscillation, where a commercial solution would work for a while, and then a new version would come out, and things would stop cooperating, and we end up back to square one, having to purchase something again. My experience is that in Linux once something is fixed, it stays fixed. The end user is in control as to when things get updated or changed.

The issue of barriers to adoption is complicated  and there probably isn't  a single stopping block that, when eliminated, would result in a dramatic increase.

For starters, there's the issue of familiarity: it's easier and probably cheaper  to hire personnel familiar with using and running the Windows environment. Next, there is more commercial support for commercial platforms, in terms of applications, hardware, etc. This is a circular argument, but it's certainly there.

Cost, which is an obvious favorable Linux characteristic, turns out to be less important than one might think, for a variety of reasons: first, when economy is good, people don't think much about cost savings. Next, the Total Cost of Ownership, which includes personnel costs for maintenance, evens out the initial capital investment. Next after that, the lesser pricing of Linux also means less marketing, which, like it or not, is bound to influence market share. Finally, the commercial software vendors are skilled in compensating  Linux cost advantage by targeted discounts, such as cheap student licenses for their products---and I even suspect that they may sometimes turn a blind eye to software piracy in the expectation that it will increase their market penetration. I once asked a foreign colleague from a developing country why don't they use more Free software, and he responded that 'All software is free in ...".

The flip side of the cost argument is that in the current recessionary environment I expect to see an increase in Linux adoption, because it will allow people to run leaner, meaner business operations.

How would you characterize your audiences?

DCLUG is a forum for Linux and Free and Open Source Software users to participate in a mutual-help peer group. There are technology developers, system administrators, students, and all kinds of folks that use Linux in  personal and work-related projects.

How are speakers selected?

We are always on lookout for new topics; fortunately, there is a wealth of new material every month. A typical Linux distribution contains several thousands of pieces of software that was created to solve a myriad of problems, and the trick is to select ones with maximum general interest.

Besides locally run software, though, we have now the entire area of Web Services, which are more often than not deployed on Linux so that is another area rich in potential topics.

What makes a good presentation? Are there presenters who particularly stand out?

The technology community excels in solving problems, and gets a bad rap for communication skills, so getting good talks is always a challenge. Having said that, there is an amazing supply of energetic, enthusiastic people who enjoy sharing their knowledge and skill. Obviously, the leaders of the community have the charisma and communication skills---our most attended meeting was the talk by Linus Torvalds during one of the Linux conferences in town. We recently had an interesting talk by Richard Weait on OpenStreetMap, a project to create a Free world-wide geographic data base like Google maps: http://www.openstreetmap.org/. Think Wikipedia for maps!

How would you describe the current Linux industry, where do you see it going?

Linux is here to stay and flourish. It is making wonderful inroads in all kinds of environments that go beyond standard desktop computing. Linux runs the majority of webservers in the world, as well as the vast majority of high-end supercomputers. It is also making serious inroads into embedded computing, which drives pretty much every piece of modern technology, from MP3 players, to network routers, to cars, phones, airplanes,  and media recorders. Pretty soon they will cross over into refrigerators and garage door openers---this is guaranteed by the combination of market trends to include more intelligence and communication into our appliances, and by the relentless price markdowns.

Linux can be deployed cheaply onto amazingly inexpensive hardware: there are full-fledged ARM architecture microcontrolers capable of running Linux that cost well under $10. There are rumors of $99 laptops being made in China---there's simply extremely little  space for commercially licensed software at those price points. What's more, there's a trend to open up the previously closely held operating environment of consumer personal electronic devices---for instance consider the iPhone third-party application market---and Linux is ideally positioned as an open, vendor-neutral platform for third-party development.

See earlier interview with Klosowski with Linux Journal.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Coming attractions: XML-In-Practice 2008

Next week's GHQ for XML affectionados, Marriott Crystal Gateway, Arlington, VA

I am pleased to report that XML-In-Practice 2008 has given me press credentials. Bob DuCharme has written an excellent preview. I plan to cover the presentation of the use of XML by the Associated Press and US News & World Report's presentation on PRISM for Metadata.

Here are the schedules for Tuesday and Wednesday (scroll down). If readers have any views on what they would like to read about, please leave word in the comments.