September 2006 Archives

September 27, 2006

Virtual Computers in Mac OS X? Enter Parallel's Desktop for Mac

Ever since I have moved to the Mac, I have gathered a lot of interest, and even a small following. The Mac performs well, doesn't give me any trouble, and let's me run my Unix Apps without any trouble.

The problem is, I can't use it well in an office environment as most offices require Windows. They don't require Windows for network integration mostly, just for application integration. That's the killer, and it's annoying as all get out.

Add to that the fact that I need a Linux box in order to prepare and maintain my Linux edge, and I'm in a world of hurt. I don't want to have more than one system, but as it sits it looks like I would need to.

Then the advent of the Intel Macs came, and changed the rules. Now you can have Windows on a Mac, but only Windows XP. And you have to reboot the system to get to Windows, which is just a pain in and of itself. But the processor also supports virtual computers, if you have software that will enable that. VMWare doesn't have a Mac OS X client for their Player as of yet, and all other options I see are very complicated to compile.

Enter Parallel's Desktop for Mac. While Parallel advertizes it as a way to run Windows on the Intel Mac without rebooting, it's much more than that. It creates virtual computers, much like VMWare, and let's you install any Intel-based operating system. Have a copy of OS/2 sitting around? Run it in Parallel! Need to take screenshots of the installation of an OS? Do it through Parallel!

Needless to say, I'm excited about this. But there are some problems that I have heard from a lot of reviews: Don't expect to run Quake 4 or Half-Life 2 in Windows.. The system just can't take it. The virtual computers are built to run basic apps like Word, Excel, Outlook, etc. and will not be able to handle 3D rendering at this point. And, be sure your computer can handle it. You can't run a Windows virtual machine and use all the resources of your system. It will crash the Mac OS (with no resources to use), and therefore crash the virtual machine.

What do I intend to use it for? Well, I need Windows to run the Office apps that I will be teaching. I also need to have a Linux box that will let me play around with it, break it, and recreate it without having to constantly reinstall. This is perfect, because it does everything that I need from a Windows machine, and yet will let my run all my important and favorite apps from a Macintosh. Also, because I only need one machine for it in my office (which does have a door, if no windows), the heat released will be minimal.

When I finally get the setup placed, I will post a review on how well it does. But until then, I'll be biting at the bit!

September 25, 2006

Urban Farming - What Does it Mean?

Lately I have become interested in urban farming, or producing farm products within the urban or suburban setting. Partly because I am at heart a farm-boy, partly because of the need for a more healthy source of vegetables, I began looking into the possibility of raising farm goods within a small 450 sq. ft. plot in my back yard.

First, I would like to point out that zoning laws have heavily influenced my decisions, and much of what I am going to talk about I have yet to implement, though I will start this coming Spring.

Farming has two main categories: growing fruits and vegetables, and raising livestock. Each is a step in development, which begins with plants and then moving on to various livestock options.

Plants
I will begin with plants because they are the least expensive to purchase, and the least difficult to raise. As with most people, I will begin with a garden plot. I already have some lovely grape vines growing, and will augment this with some salad greens, and various root plants. The greens will be part of a larger raised garden, while the root plants (carrots, Potatoes, etc.) will be grown in halved whiskey barrels. This is because the root plants need a more sandy soil that allows the roots to plump up.

I also will be building a greenhouse as an extension to my current covered porch (which will be enclosed this spring as well). Here I intend to grow at least one citrus tree, and experiement with growing a pineapple plant. This will be important, as I intend to eventually build up to a full farm that grows various tropical fruits in a greenhouse environment.

Now, I know what you are thinking.. A greenhouse in Utah with tropical plants? Isn't that going to cost a fortune to heat? Well, In addition to the plants, I am going to set up a fairly large water tank system for growing water plants and hydroponic lettuce. The water will help regulate the heat in the greenhouse, and will cut down on the amount of heating during the winter.

Livestock
With the plants all set up, I then intend to look into raising livestock. As livestock is very restricted within West Valley City, I am going to try my hand at raising fish. This is another reason for the water tank system.

The system itself is very ingenious, as I have found it. Located here, it basically outlines a filter system that is built from natural filter materials, and works like a standard undergravel filter for a tropical fish tank. Brilliant in it's simplicity, it's just what I have been interested in.

Next, of course, is the livestock. Because of the cost of keeping carnivorous fish (trout, bass, or salmon), I have looked for herbivorous fish, namely Tilapia. This is a fairly new whitefish that is becoming popular because of it's farming capabilities. Because Utah is by no means a tropical zone (gets way below the 50 degree threshhold for Tilapia), there are no restrictions to raising this fish. That being said, it's nearly impossible to locate fingerlings to raise. I have been able to locate some possible contacts for purchase, but will not confirm until I have the system in place.

Ultimately, I hope to have a system that can be scaled up to a larger farm plot within the next 5 to 10 years, where I hope to augment income by selling produce at the Farmer's Market. As it is so far in the future, I am focusing on developing the system as it stands now.

Look for more updates in the blog as I start developing each portion!

September 21, 2006

Search Engine Optimization - What does it mean?

I have been thinking about this a lot lately, particularly in regards to how it can be implemented and why it should be implemented. Partly because I will be teaching a class on search engine optimization in the Spring, but also because it's a very fascinating subject.

Ultimately, search engine optimization is the art of making your content more available to search engine spiders, which in turn will make it appear higher in a search. The concept is great, and appearing on the first page of a search means real exposure to your content. The problem is that there are so many rules to help keep things "fair" that almost everyone want's to look for that "Holy Grail" of guaranteed search results.

The reality is that most search engines (like Google and Yahoo) are looking for real, applicable, and targeted results. In doing so, they applaud those that make their content apply to what they want, but punish those that try to "abuse" potential problems within their system and promote a natural growth within the internet.

The problem is, as with any other process, rule, law, society, etc. ever conceived by humans, people try to manipulate the rules to benefit themselves at the expense of a natural growth system. And let's face it, we all want to see more traffic sooner than later, which is why we focus on optimizing websites for search engines.

I'm not about to comment one way or the other on the ethics of trying to work the system, but it's interesting to see the topic discussed on all levels with varying viewpoints. There are a few constants that are taken for granted that I would like to point out from all the discussions that I have read:

1. The internet is the only way to guarantee a huge market base for your content.
2. Only Google optimization, with maybe a consideration for Yahoo, is important in the world. All other search engines are just too small to be considered.
3. I need to focus on the optimization of the pages more than the content flow. That's just icing on the cake.

For the interest of conversation, I would like to question these assumptions.

1. The internet is the only way to guarantee a huge market base for your content. Does that sound right? Not all markets benefit from global accessibility. Many companies and websites are too small to handle the huge traffic that executives imagine will be coming down the pipe (irresponsible executives, at any rate). Also, many markets have seen a huge increase in local traffic as more internet fraud becomes common. The first question you would want to ask yourself, if you want to start marketing on the Internet, is whether or not that marketing can be better targeted locally.

2. Only Google optimization, with maybe a consideration for Yahoo, is important in the world. All other search engines are just too small to be considered. Now, this is just plain silly, and I had hoped that companies have learned from the mistakes of "Internet Explorer is it for Browsers" days. Yes, these two search engines represent 73% of all search engine traffic (courtesy SearchEngineWatch.com), but that does not mean that other search engines are not as important. Keep open to all search engine tools, so that you don't alienate that last 27% that use other search engines.

3. I need to focus on the optimization of the pages more than the content flow. That's just icing on the cake. After reading this article on SEOchat.com, I realize how easy it is to focus too much on the optimizing process, and not enough on the useful content. What good is it to have a website trying to sell your widget, if you don't have an option to actually buy it? Search engines don't care about checkout processes, but people do. Remember that your end goal is to sell something (time, talent, goods, services, etc.), and not to beat the search engines at their own game. This will help keep you on target.

Let me know what you think!

September 18, 2006

The Exciting New Day!!

Today is the day that I started my new job at the University of Utah. Now that I have started, I have a better understanding of what will be expected of me. Starting this Spring (2007) the University Technical Education department will have training courses on the Mac. We need to work on getting those courses developed and running by that time.

We are currently at ground zero, getting the materials together, building a Mac lab, and organizing the classes in such a way as to qualify for a Training Center through Apple. For those of you who know me, this is almost like a dream come true. Not only am I going to be teaching classes at a University, but I will also be teaching classes on the Macintosh.

I have already set up my Macintosh on the wireless network, and use it for my communication hub. I also have started gathering materials for OS X Server as I will be teaching the technical end of the experience, while the other instructor just hired, Debbie (and she's Great!), will be teaching the applications (iLife, Final Cut Pro, etc.). For those of you interested in learning about the Mac, I hope you keep the U in mind. If this succeeds, we will be the only training facility within the Intermountain West, north of Las Vegas.

September 15, 2006

Summer Storms vs. Autumn Storms

Today we had our first true Autumn storm in the Salt Lake Area, and it got me thinking: What is the diffference between summer and autumn rainstorms?

The main difference that I see is how they come into the valley. They sound and look completely different.

Summer storms have a distinct pattern when they come into the valley. They begin with a hard blowing wind that reaches gusts up to 60 mph. This is followed by gray fluffy clouds with very dark gray centers, and a sweet smell of water in the air. When you are in a climate with 20% to 40% humidity, moisture in the air is a wonderful smell. Finally, huge rain drops fall, leaving circles on the windshield at least the size of a quarter. After the hard rain, smaller drops begin to fall until the rain is so light you hardly notice it. Once the rain stops, it takes between 15 to 30 minutes for the sidewalk to dry.

Contrast that with an autumn storm. The storm comes in with a blast of cold air, though not has hard as a summer storm. Generaly it blows up to 40 mph. Then, the rain falls hard, fast, and cold. the sky is a very dark gray to deep violet. The rain is more sustained, and smaller than your typical summer storm. It also lasts much longer than a summer storm. When the rain stops the water remains on the ground for an hour at least, if not longer.

September 12, 2006

New Apple Set-Top Device Coming Soon: iTV!

Yes! Finally, something that I have wanted for ever is coming in the first quarter of 2007! It was announced here in a small section, but it basically covers the intention of Apple to release a wireless device that will allow you to watch movies from a computer. The interface is much like Front Row, and it uses the Apple remote control. Basically, it's yet another device to attach to your TV, like your VCR, Cable box, DVD player, etc.

The good news is that it has a wireless connection to your computer, so there isn't a long cable, or you don't have to have your computer sitting next to your TV. And, for those of us who have young kids that tend to break DVD's, we are able to still watch the shows while keeping the DVD's locked up and away from little fingers.

It is also slated to be sold for $299.00, which is a lot cheaper than building a media computer center just to watch movies, or released TV shows. That is the real strength for this device. It actually makes me want to buy TV episodes and movies from the iTunes Store, instead of going out and buying the DVD. The price is cheaper than a DVD in most cases, and those I want on DVD for preservation I can back up on my Macintosh. Needless to say, I'm quite thrilled with this development, and I hope you all will be as well.

I'm counting down to the day!

September 8, 2006

Personal Rebuttal: Responsibility for Self-Improvement

After posting my last post, I began to think of the other side of the coin. I am often playing devil's advocate with myself, so I hope you don't mind my indulgence here.

In my previous post, I mentioned the necessity for management to keep an open mind when looking for employees by looking past their current position. Now, I want to say something in support of management: personal development.

As I had mentioned in my previous post as a qualifier, it is the responsibility of the employee to develop themselves and keep working at whatever position they are in. In this post, I want to delve more deeply into that subject.

Self development is more than just looking for ways to improve your knowledge and skill, it also includes improving your image. Many a well-qualified representative can lose out on advancement if it is perceived that they are not hard working, or have an attitude that can be a barrier in getting projects done.

The days of the "Prima Donna" employee are out the window. Employers are realizing that employee turn around, and in some cases counciling, is more of a cost than the results of a bad-attitude employee that performs well(As reported on NPR). Also, those well performing employees often leave the company, and do not perform well at all. This is because the support group and team surrounding the "Prima Donna" were the real strength.

So this begs the question, what does an employee do to increase their hiring potential?

First, be a great performer. This means be willing to work hard, work often, and take a hit for the team. Far beyond just doing your own job, look for ways to increase the overall productivity of the team. Management loves to see someone that goes on a limb to help a fellow employee.

Second, work on projects in addition to your own work. Don't let your own work suffer in your attempt to get a few extra points from a project. This does more harm than good. If you can succeed at both the project and your own performance, then you show that your potential is far greater than your current position.

Third, diversify your experience. Don't try to be an expert in only one area. One-trick ponies generally stagnate within a hiring pool. If you can program a web page, design it to look nice, and run the networking behind it, that's great! What's better is if you can manage the business, check marketing strategy, and analyze performance based on real numbers. The more diverse your experience is, the better your chances are for being selected for higher management positions.

Fourth, know how to interview. Often times, it all comes down to the interview process. While I don't personally agree with this philosophy, it's a reality of the corporate world. Focus on specific situations, actions, and the results. Be ready to answer the hard questions ("Is there a time when you didn't get along with anyone?") with a real answer that includes the problem, actions taken to resolve the issue, and the results.

Also, if you are asked to role-play, look for the important trends. If information is vague, assume that you are new to the team and go from there. Write down any committments you have made, and a date for follow up. Keep in mind that even if you don't think the interviewer may practice good management skills, they definitely know them when they see them. Following up is a major bonus. ^_^

Ultimately, a person's success is completely up to them. Whether or not one stays at the same job or moves on to other positions, the only thing they can take with them that is a true measure of success is what they have developed on their own. No one manager, supervisor, janitor, CEO, or even World Leader is responsible for one's success. If one can develop this ability, then advancement and success is enevitible.

September 7, 2006

Personal Theory on Workplace Loyalty

Recently, I have been thinking about my change, and what has motivated me to leave eBay, and move on to a teaching job at the University of Utah. Putting personal goals of teaching at a major university aside, it all came down to upward mobility, and the uphill struggle it is to move in any company.

Now, I want to preface this by saying I absolutely love eBay, and that I would recommend anyone looking for a job to check them out. The benefits are outstanding, and the environment is still very much like a small business.

That being said, I have noticed that many companies have a glass ceiling for those that come into the company at an hourly wage. It is almost like Middle Management can't see beyond the "Just a CSR" syndrome. As long as you are moving up within that general job description, mobility is fine. But once you try to break out and use other skills you have honed, it takes a long time to get to a salaried position.

At eBay, this is particularly true because of the quality of the CSR pool (for years it was a requirement to have at least 2 years of college). Because most Customer Support representatives are college graduates, it makes the hiring process that much more competitive.

But lately, it has seemed to me at least, that the higer paying jobs are being pulled from outside the company. And when I think about it even more, in any other company that I had worked for, that was the same case. Salaried positions were rarely hired from an internal applicant, unless from another salaried position.

Why is this? The only theory that I have heard that makes sense to me is the "Just a CSR" syndrome. The idea that one can only do what has been previously demonstrated, and therefore can't stretch beyond that point. Opportunities are therefore denied many hourly wage earners, because management doesn't keep in mind the potential that could be tapped based on education or previous work experience. Ultimately the only way to get to the job that you may have as a goal is to get hired on through an outside company, and then come back at that role.

There is a qualifier that needs to be mentioned as well. In my experience in a leadership role, I have seen members of my team basically give up and stop working, and yet they are upset about their inability to advance. This brings up another issue, which is work ethics. These people either get burned once or twice, feel that they are not getting "what's owed to them", and therefore decide to punish the company by no longer performing at their best. Let me make this very clear: That is not the way to advance in any organization. Instead, that dooms a person to eventual termination of employment. If anyone reading this post does this, please stop. You are not hurting the company, you are hurting yourself. Dust yourself off, work as hard as you can, and keep trying to advance at your company or elsewhere.

So, what does all this have to do with company loyalty? It means that instilling loyalty within your hourly employees begins with management. Do you want people to be happy and work hard? Give them something to work for. That means look for talent within your own company, as well as adding new blood and perspectives from outside. The days of 20+ years at one company doesn't have to be a dream from the past... You can keep that talent and experience by looking for opportunities to expand the reach of "just a CSR".

September 4, 2006

End of Labor Day, and Beginning of Change

As Labor Day ends, the world says good bye to the summer and look forward to the autumn. The holidays are coming, festivals of harvest are common in a number of cultures, and the northern hemispheres start to cool.

WIth this fall I have started a new job and the University of Utah as an instructor, and a new vision for the small back yard my family has. The yard has been slowly degrading since the sprinkler system had broken and as we had rebuilt the inside of our humble house, the outside has been sorely neglected.

We have started by planting some grape vines on the south side of the house to help control the heat in the summer. We have also removed a failed garden plot on the west side of our garage in preparation for a new patio. The current covered patio is planned as a new addition to the house, and half of the former back lawn will be planted as a new garden. The remaining lawn that will be replanted this fall will be a space for a swing set for our son.

This begins a new goal in micro-farming that I am flirting with at the moment. I hope to find a way to grow more tropical plants in the Utah climate without overly using resources. We shall see, as we try to develop a technique.

September 2, 2006

Welcome!

Salutations and Welcome!

This blog is designed specifically for updating friends and family with the goings and comings of my little family. It also gives me a chance to record ideas, share stories, and various observations that I have.

Thanks again for visiting!
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This page is an archive of entries from September 2006 listed from newest to oldest.

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