Monthly Archives: January 2011 | Force 5
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Monthly Archives: January 2011

Jan
28

Google Chrome OS CR-48 First Impressions

Posted on January 28, 2011 by Christian

The day before yesterday I got home from work and was greeted by a plain brown box, correctly addressed to me, on my front porch. I thought this was rather curious, as I had not ordered anything. I brought the box in from the cold (it was about 12 degrees outside). My kids were with me and they were just as curious as I was, asking "What did you order?" "Nothing that I'm aware of," I answered, but it was certainly addressed to me. The return address didn't have a company or name on it, just an address. Well, since it did have my name on it, I opened it, to be greeted by another box, this one less plain.

Google CR-48 Packaging

Google ChromeOS CR-48 packaging

Now I was incredibly curious. As you can see, the box has no brand, label, or even words. At this point, my curiosity was completely piqued. After taking that box out, I notice the back of it has the "Lithium-Ion" battery warning on it. And judging from the shape and the weight I though, "ok, is this a laptop?"

It is indeed. It seems that I was one of the people chosen to take part in the Google ChromeOS Pilot program. I opened the "mouse box" to find a "shiny" new Google CR-48 Chrome OS Notebook. Now this was an incredibly surprise to me. I watched the announcement of the pilot program back in December as it was happening. As soon as they announced that the website was up to sign up, I did, and then didn't think about it again. I figured I was among the 32897298346734678346 other people to sign up for the same program. Well much to my surprise, I was chosen to take part. (Maybe it was because my previous blog post about using Chrome, but I doubt it). I un-boxed the notebook, and followed the (very brief) instructions on how to get started, and within 5 minutes, I was online, connected to my wireless network and able to have access to the web.

Google ChromeOS CR-48

Google ChromeOS CR-48

I have now been using the notebook for a couple of days. I would like to have been able to use it more fully for my work as well as entertainment. Unfortunately, not all of my work translates well to a device like this. There are a few things to keep in mind with this computer.

First, EVERYTHING is based in the Cloud. In order for this device to function it needs to have a network connection. On first thought, this seems like a significant limitation, but with the fact that Wi-Fi is becoming more and more ubiquitous (you can get wireless access anyplace from your Starbucks, to McDonalds, to even my kids' school now), it is much less of a problem than you would think. And for those times that you are not within range of an access point, and you NEED to get online, Google has thrown in 100MB/Month of Verizon Wireless 3G access for the first two years. That isn't a ton of data, but if you need to get your email, or find directions, it is enough for a casual user. If you need more than that, then there are other options to purchase more data.

Second, EVERYTHING is based in the Cloud. This means no local storage. No flash drives. No CD drives. No software installs. Everything comes from the web. Software is installed via the Chrome Web Store. From there you can install a variety of apps, from things that you would expect like Google Docs, to utilities like Quick Note, to HTML5 based games. There are even some development tools, such as PHPanywhere (a completely cloud based PHP development environment that has support for in browser FTP). The user experience of installing the apps is great. There is very little to do other than just click "install" within the store. There are not a ton of apps built for ChromeOS yet, but I can imagine the quantity rapidly increasing as the pilot program continues. There is one thing that I don't like about this environment: printing. In order to print from the device you have to use the Google Cloud-Print service. While the idea sounds good (the ability to print from any device, any place, to your printer) it just doesn't seem very elegant. I don't necessarily like the idea of having to send my print jobs to the internet in order to print to a printer that is 2 feet away from me, and connected to the same network as my notebook. This may be more of an "in my head" complaint, however, as I have net had to need to print anything.

The notebook hardware has a very solid feel to it. It doesn't feel "chincy" or "Plasticy" like some inexpensive devices feel. The keyboard has very good "action". You will notice that there are some changes to the "normal" keyboard though. Along the top, where the function ("F") keys normally are, there are operation keys.

Also, instead of the Caps-Lock key, there is the the "Search" key. This opens up a new tab and puts focus on the "Magic Bar" (the address bar that also acts as a search box).

There is 1 VGA port, for connecting external monitors/projectors, 1 USB port (primarily for external mice), 1 headphone jack, 1 SD Memory card slot (for uploading files to the Cloud), and the power adapter connector. Also embedded in the display bezel is a webcam and microphone.

I have yet to fully test the battery life, but others have reported that the battery life is about 8 hours.

I plan on continuing to give my impressions of both the device and the software on it as I use it for my own and Force 5 work. Check back later for more!

Jan
21

A few weeks ago I was reading the usual list of technology sites and came across an interesting debate on how Microsoft is planning to embed ad blocking technology into its browser, while Google and Mozilla will not. The items that were discussed got be thinking about what I use and how that relates to the Web as a whole.

I have been using ad-blocking software since it because available. According my my perception it sped up my browsing experience, and improved my security. (Not to mention I didn't have to see a million ads asking me to punch a monkey or lower my mortgage interest rate). To me this was great! It was like being on a freeway or limited access highway: I didn't have to worry about interruptions, or other people getting in the way of my car causing an accident. However, I didn't think about one thing: LOTS of the websites that I rely on as a developer for technical resources, tools or documentation rely on ad revenue for operations. This is especially true for open source software.

Now I use many tools and reference sites while I am working and I started thinking: what if they went away? Would I be willing to "subscribe" to the site? What is the value of the information? Those questions, as well as the release of the new-er versions of Chrome led me to the decision to switch to Chrome as my primary instrument for browsing the web.

This took a few days to get used to, as one can imagine. Some of the sites that I go to regularly suddenly got a lot more "noisy". I had to deal with a few pop-under ads (which I hate). I have had to learn to deal with the "creepy" factor of getting custom ads delivered to me across multiple sites based on my browsing history or email contents. Overall, however, my "web" experience has not been significantly hindered.

Now I do still use AdBlocking software when I am doing research into some of the more "grey" areas of the internet (security research, etc), but overall for 90% of my web usage now, I am free and open to be marketed to. In many ways it has been beneficial, as I am getting informed of products or services that I may actually be interested in.

All in all, I'm now a Chrome user. Of course, we at Force 5, design our solutions to be used by all technologies, but for me personally I'm enjoying the speed and other features that Chrome gives me.

Jan
11

When Marketers Should Make BIG Promises

Posted on January 11, 2011 by butch

My blog post last week on discoverforce5.com left you with this question:  “How much should a marketer promise about an experience?”  Probably better stated as :

“How do I promise people enough to move them to action without setting them up for disappointment once they make the move?”

I had several conversations about this last week.  It was clear this question hit home to those of us experienced in sales:  “Under-promise; over-deliver.”  I remember every sales manager I've ever had say this and I believe it to be true.  Yes, we must under-promise. Yes, we must over-deliver.  Now, how much is optimal?  It might be the marketing question. I don’t know the full answer, but I am learning some things.  In the marketing world, I am learning that big promises can draw big crowds or get the big sale: 

So, here’s when to make BIG promises:

1) When you absolutely, positively, without-a-doubt personally believe the claim you are making about the experience. 

I believe your authenticity can alter my reality.  I believe that when you believe what you are saying, you actually shape the outcome of my experience. “You will believe a man can fly …” That’s what the people who made Superman said.  I ran home from the theater, tied a tablecloth around my neck and jumped down the staircase.  They believed I would believe … and I did.

2) When your experience is outrageously and radically unique.

I remember the first time I saw Cirque du Soleil .  It was the greatest … I-don’t-know-what-kinda-show-thing I’d ever seen.  Whatever it was, people told me it was the greatest and that I had to see it.  They were right – it was.

When you are that new and that unique, you define not only the experience itself, but the criteria for the quality of the experience - yet another reason to be first to market.

And finally, make BIG promises ...

3) When you must have the sale today, no matter what, and you don't care about your customer or whether they or their friends will ever buy from you again.

If you’re selling snake oil and just passing through town, if you don’t care about actually helping people, or if they will give you repeat business or referrals, make big promises about what the snake oil will do for them.  I mean, people typically want to believe in something too good be true and, at the end of the day, should ultimately be responsible for themselves, right?

Jan
11

Tobacco Free St. Joseph County website

Recently in the local news WNDU reported how the "Freedom from Smoking" program started last week. The report was based off of the Tobacco free program in St. Joseph County which is involved in helping the public stop smoking.

Tobacco Free of St. Joseph County has been a client of Force 5’s for over a year now. Force 5 recently produced a website for Tobacco Free to help communicate its mission for a smoke free lifestyle.

To learn more about the Tobacco Free program please visit KickTobacco.org.

Source: WNDU

Jan
07

Top 5 Game Changing Tech Stories of 2010

Posted on January 7, 2011 by nmcelwrath

2010 was a big year for the tech industry. New markets became relevant, Facebook reminded us no one is anonymous, web technologies were given a second look, and TV was rethought.

5. Old Spice “I’m On A Horse” campaign finds a new way to promote.

The campaign had legs from the beginning. Remember this?

And this ..

Old Spice later used social media sites like Twitter and YouTube to communicate with fans and respond with quick witted and hilarious responses from questions asked on Twitter.

4. Apple ignores Flash With It’s iPad

Why? Apple’s reasoning is they were not pleased with the stability and performance of Flash as a browser plugin. The new HTML5 spec that is currently being ratified provides some overlap to Flash. While I somewhat agree with Apple and it’s stance against Flash on the web, Flash still has it’s place - just not where we are used to it living. I dive a little deeper in my blog post from earlier in 2010, "Adobe's Flash in the Pan?".

3. Success of AppleTV, Roku, Netflix, XBox Live and GoogleTV show hopes of a new “Cable Killer” market.

A la carte television may be the wave of the next few years. Content providers still have to jump on board. Top television network executives are slow to jump on what they say is just another trend. Increasing success of these new Internet TV boxes show what consumers are hungry for. An interesting wrench we may see in 2011; the conflict between ISPs that are also cable providers. Ahem, Comcast,Time Warner, DirectTV and Dish.

2. Facebook’s Privacy Woes Bring Privacy Into The Spotlight

Facebook’s “opt-in” approach to privacy struck a nerve with the paranoid. Rightly so, Facebook makes more money by sharing more information with advertisers for targeted ads. It is beginning to be a tug-of-war between a large percentage of users and Facebook’s own business model. A study found that 60% of Facebook users were thinking about quitting the service. - IT security firm, Sophos PC World Article - May 2010 2011 should show this struggle continue.

1. Emerging Tablet market grows wings - and soars

Apple didn’t invent the market, but they made it relevant. Apple’s own sales estimates were 10 million units in 2010. I don’t think they were far off. Sales numbers have not been released quite yet but I expect close to 10-12 million. The iPad gained a ton of ground early in the tablet race but more competition is coming. Watch next year’s CES in January 2011 for a ton of new tablets to make their appearance as well.

Jan
05

Almost every modern website has a "search my site" module of some sort added to it. In this How-To I'm going to explain how to set up Karamasoft UltimateSearch to automatically rebuild its index on a repeating scheduled basis in a Microsoft Windows hosted environment.

First, you will need to obtain the UltimateSearch software from the Karamasoft site, found at: http://www.karamasoft.com/UltimateSearch/Features.aspx. Follow the directions provided to get the tool installed into your particular hosting environment. For this How-To I'm going to assume that you have a website www.example.com that you have the tool installed in. The process for starting the indexing process is as simple as accessing a particular webpage on your site and passing it a particular operation code in the query string. To start the full indexing process for our example site you would navigate to:

http://www.example.com/UltimateSearchInclude/Admin/UltimateSearch.admin.aspx?cmd=IndexFull

We want to be able to call this process via a script, so we will need something lightweight and easily used from within a scripting language. A perfect tool for this is the Open Source GNU Wget utility. From the GNU Wget site:

GNU Wget is a free software package for retrieving files using HTTP, HTTPS and FTP, the most widely-used Internet protocols. It is a non-interactive commandline tool, so it may easily be called from scripts, cron jobs, terminals without X-Windows support, etc.

Download and install the GNU Wget utility. The Windows port can be downloaded from http://gnuwin32.sourceforge.net/packages/wget.htm. Download the setup program, follow the setup wizard, and install the utility to your server. After the installation process has completed, add the directory that you installed wget.exe into to the PATH environment variable.

Once you have UltimateSearch and Wget installed on your server you are now ready to set up the indexing job. In order to have the site be indexed based on a schedule, the admin link needs to be visited on a scheduled basis. In order to do this, we are going to use the Wget utility that we just downloaded in a batch file. That batch file will then be called as a scheduled task by Windows.

The batch file that I created is named USearchIndexTask.bat. In it is the following:

@echo off
wget -O - http://www.example.com/UltimateSearchInclude/Admin/UltimageSearch.admin.aspx?cmd=IndexIncremental > nul 2> nul

I have saved this file in c:\Program Files\Force5\USearchIndexTask.bat. You can save it where-ever it makes the most sense in your hosting environment.

Once the batch file is saved, then you need to create a scheduled task to run the batch file. In our environment I used Windows Task Scheduler to create the task. Use that tool to create a task to run the USearchIndexTask.bat file. Choose a frequency that makes sense for your environment, based on the quantity of changes for the site. If there are very few changes made on a daily bases, then having it run once a day at midnight is an appropriate setting.

Manually run the scheduled task to verify that it completed successfully, and then go get lunch. You are done!

To see more bright ideas from the Left and Right brains of Force5, check out the rest of our blog as well as our work!

Jan
03

A Satisfying Promise

Posted on January 3, 2011 by butch

Marketers are promise –makers.  They use their promises to set expectations high enough to move consumers to action: to buy their stuff, read their books, to come to their show, etc.  PT Barnum made big promises.  He promised, “The Greatest Show on Earth” - the ultimate claim - not a better show anywhere on the planet.  I imagine his customers had pretty high expectations when they bought a ticket.  I am quite sure that his promise drew a lot of patrons.   Trouble is, when the customer actually attended the show, any experience they had that was less than “the greatest” (whatever that meant to them) was probably disappointing.

I believe in the theory that customer’s expectations greatly impact the satisfaction they get from their experience.   In a formula, it might look like this:

Customer Experience – Customer Expectation = Customer Satisfaction

So, in this case, let’s say on a scale of 1-10, the “Greatest show on Earth” would actually set an expectation to the consumer that the show is going to be a “10.”  Now, if I go to Barnum’s show and I experience “9.”  My satisfaction score is a negative one (9 – 10 = -1) and I’m likely to be disappointed.    I might  feel cheated or misled and ask for my money back.  I might not return to the show again, or even worse, tell my friends they will be disappointed. This is a curious facet of human nature:   it is possible to experience a great, “9-quality" show yet feel disappointed because we were promised something better.

Conversely, had I come to the show expecting a “7” and gotten that very same “9” show, I might have been thrilled.  I would have a +2 satisfaction score.  I might tell all my friends to come.  I might even come back for tomorrow night’s show, myself.

Marketers find themselves in a conundrum.   After all, if the marketer doesn’t promise enough, no one will come to his show, right?  I mean, who would drive hundreds of miles to see, “The Most Lame Show on Earth?”  This dynamic poses an interesting marketing question:  “How much should a marketer promise about a customer experience?” I’ll be sharing some of my thoughts on this in my next post.  In the meantime, I’d love to hear yours.