Goodbye, 2008. Hello, 2009!

I just want to wish everyone a very happy 2009.

We all know that 2008, as all leap years tend to be, wasn’t the easiest or calmest of the years.  From our debt-happy lifestyle finally catching up with us and causing a world-wide economic havoc, to losing our loved ones and friends — in short, things could’ve been better.

But we can’t only have sadness in our life.  Let us not forget the good things that came to be in 2008.  Everyone had different things that made their life this year better and happier.  Without those, how would we have put up with everything else that happened otherwise?

So, while it is not like me to get all emotional and inspirational, may 2009 be better than 2008 was, may it bring many opportunities your way, may you have the stength to make your resolutions come true and may whatever you wished for yourself happen.

Happy 2009, everybody!

PSC wins the 2009 Lotus Award in the Philanthropy category

I am very excited to announce that PSC is the winner of the 2009 IBM Lotus Award in the Philanthropy category.

The IBM Lotus Awards honor companies who have dedicated their time and energy to building innovative solutions using IBM Lotus software.  The Philanthropy category recognizes a Business Partner who has developed and deployed an effective solution for a not-for-profit, environmental or humanitarian effort or in support of broader civic participation.

We won the award for our Africa Challenge project.  For those of you who don’t know what that project entailed, some details are below.

I want to thank everyone who was involved in the project during this year for their hard work and dedication: John Head, Sri Bedathur, Luis Guirigay, Ross Bellak and Eric McLaughlin.  Great job, team!  Thank you for making this happen!

Project Details
Richard Reid TV (now Africa Challenge Productions S.A., ACSA) has been the leading source for academic competitions worldwide for the past 35 years.

ACSA provides content and organization for teams of students competing on topics ranging from history and current events to science and mathematics.

Africa Challenge S.A. (ACSA), has joined with Zain, Africa’s most successful pan-African mobile network, to create the Zain Africa Challenge (ZAC).  ZAC, the first-ever televised academic competition among students at African universities across the continent, is a major undertaking for ACSA.

The Zain Africa Challenge (ZAC) is an event that celebrates higher education in the continent of Africa.  ZAC unites students and creates a forum for like-minded individuals and educators to meet and collaborate.

A great benefit of the ZAC is the social networking that begins as students from many nations intermix and compete.  These future leaders come to respect peers from neighboring countries that have often had poor relations. The leaders are learning the value of networking, education, and collaboration.

The collaboration tools of Notes/Domino and Lotus Sametime allowed the local staff in Africa to work closely with the worldwide authors and editors, providing better localization of the content. The result is a product that is more responsive and accurate to the people of Africa. In fact, the real-time collaboration tools of Lotus Sametime changed the entire process and has reduced costs and transformed the ZAC cultural for the better.

In the end, automating this process with Lotus Notes/Domino, the ZAC was conducted flawlessly for students from 100+ universities across Africa and will reach an estimates 250 million people with the televised events.

The solution provided a time to market of less than one month, administrative efficiencies allowing the re-tasking 30% of RRTV staff and seamless communication between hundreds of collaborators.

Why do I care what email client you use?

When Ed Brill posts an entry like one from December 13 (Link), it sparks too much thought in my head to fit it all into a comment.

It’s almost 2009, why are we still fighting over what email client a user wants to use?  Email is ubiquitous, that’s what standards are all about.  POP3 or IMAP — both are fine protocols.  As long as my client talks one of those and my server talks one of those, I can use my client against my server.  As a vendor selling email servers, why do I care so much about what client is being used to access my server?  I still get to charge access fees regardless of the vehicle used for access.

Imagine if the development of the National Highway System was sponsored by Ford.  We’d all be driving Model T’s right now to be able to take full advantage of the highway.  Not a Ford? Sorry, you can’t go faster than 45.  The Tollway Authority, at least in Illinois, at least to my knowledge, does not discriminate, does not care what car you drive: Ford, GM, Honda or Ferrari — all get charged the same access fee.  You drive whatever tickles your fancy or fits your budget, but everyone gets to pay $3 to drive on the Chicago Skyway.

IP Telephony vendors figured this out long ago.  With the advent of SIP as the standard, even Cisco, in addition to its proprietary Skinny protocol, started supporting it.  The IP telephony vendor – Cisco, Broadsoft, Asterisk – cares about selling his switch.  What phone you use, is of less import.  And while, of course, they would love to sell the cobranded and pre-packaged phones with their solution, you can opt to use a brand of your choice.

And if you want to be a phone vendor, your phone has to be able to compete with other phones and be able to be used with all kinds of switches.  Aastra, Polycom and others have long been playing this game competing on features, price, compatibility.  And if you can’t make a phone as good or better as one of these vendors, get out of the game.

Imitation is the best form of flattery.  In release 8, Lotus pretty much all but publicly admitted that users want Outlook.  The layout, the colors and other UI nuiances of the 8 version of the mail template pay homage to Microsoft Outlook.  In the words of the great Bugs Bunny, “if you can’t beat them, join them”.  There are fans and then there are fanatics.  Fighting fanatics is usually pointless.  IBM has a great server — Lotus Domino.  Microsoft has an OK server — Exchange.  Microsoft has a great client — Outlook. IBM has an OK client — Notes.  Right or wrong, Outlook is king: users like it, users want it, 3rd party vendors integrate with it.  So why fight it?  Why not let users make their own choice of which client they want to use?  Users don’t care what server delivers their email, take this decision out of their hands.  As long as I get paid every other week, I don’t care what payroll system my company uses.  As long as my email gets to me, I don’t care what servers it went through.  Why not make Lotus Domino mail open to be accessed by other clients?

Lotus Domino is a great server.  Its advantages over Exchange are numerous.  From the IT perspective, most organizations I deal with would rather run a Domino infrastructure: it runs on most any platform, it stays up, it is easy to administer.  But alas! Users want Outlook and Outlook automatically means Exchange. Let’s stop allowing the users and the impetuous CEOs hold IT hostage.  Let the users decide what applications they want on their desktops.  And let’s leave the back-end decisions in the hands of people who are qualified to make them — the IT department.

Both IBM and Microsoft understood this long time ago.  You can use any browser to access your Hotmail account or an IIS website.  And you can open Word documents in Symphony.  Yet the email client war rages on.  The last frontier to be won or pointlessly lost.  If you can’t make a great client, stop making it.  I would much rather see the efforts and the dollars go towards making a great server even better.   If you win the back-end war, who cares what client is used to connect to your server — you still get to charge an access fee.

What Mac applications are a must-have?

As a brand-spanking new Mac user I found myself a bit at a loss.  I knew what applications I always use on a Windows machine: there are the standard IM clients, MS Office, OneNote, Visual WebDeveloper Express, etc.  But what should I use on a Mac.  Jim, the same Jim who was the cause of my downfall from a Windows user, a long-time Mac user, gave me several applications that he uses.  So now I have Adium, iStat menus, Growl, AppTrap, Dialectic, MS Office for Mac. They work for me.  But I can’t help but wonder what else is out there.

What Mac applications absolutely positively you can NOT do without? What apps do you install on every Mac as soon as you login for the first time?

Me — a proud Mac user

What started as an idle curiousity question on November 17th if Apple ever has sales, thanks to Jim, responding with this Link to AppleInsider, ended as a trip to my local BestBuy store.  Long story short, I walked out of the store carrying an all too sexy little box labeled Macbook.  It’s been 2 weeks now and not once did I regret my decision.  Not only this 13.3″ laptop looks awfully terribly cool, it also works well.   In fact, it works so well and so intuitive, that at times, when turning back to a Windows machine, I find myself at a loss. (Why 2 fingers on the touch pad don’t scroll the page?)

I can go on and on about all the cool things about a Mac: from ease of use to all the out of the box features.  But I won’t.  Enough of that is said out there anyway.  The only thing I’ll say is that I miss the availability of open source and free software for Windows.  There is a ton of software out there for Mac, but, more often than not, you have to buy it.

And lastly, I don’t like that same applications that exist on Windows and Mac are often implemented just ever so slightly different on a Mac.  But I quickly forget about it every time I open the cover of my sleeping laptop and… Boom!…  it is on just like that and connected to my wireless network — no waiting!  Love it

Lotus Notes advertising on Google

I just couldn’t resist mentioning this..

So I was reading an email from one of my clients in my Gmail account.  The email mentioned Lotus Notes and Google, of course, obligingly put up some relevant advertisement along the right side of my screen.  The only ad said something about France Telecom signing with Lotus for some public service. Intrigued, I clicked on the {Link}…  October 20, 1992?!  Come on!  Google, how did that score highly on your relevance chart?!

I am a US citizen

usa-flagWell, almost…

I successfully passed my US citizenship interview.  I correctly answered 6 civic lessons questions, demonstrated my ability to read, write and speak English, and proclaimed my willingness to bear arms to defend the US of A.  All in all, this was a rather anti-climatic experience.  Not sure what I was expecting — the ghost of Francis Scott Key singing The Star-Spangled Banner perhaps.  But none of that happened.  Instead, I was simply informed that I had passed my interview and that my oath ceremony is to take place next Thursday.  Until then I won’t count myself a bona fide US citizen.

I learned that appointment times stated on Immigration forms are more of a general guideline than an actual appointment.  My 11:05 PM appointment was more like an 11:35 PM.

I happily learned that my file, by USCIS standards, is a very thin one, albeit it is about 1 inch thick.

I am curious why such heavy security is needed for the waiting area of the citizenship interviews offices. I wasn’t sure whether I was being protected against a possible attack or whether the employees were being protected against a possible attack by a disgruntled citizens-wanna-be.  Somehow I don’t think those armed guards were there for my protection.

I am also curious why, if knowledge of English is required to become a citizen, all signs in the waiting area are in English, Spanish and, I believe, Polish.  If I can’t understand the word “Auditorium”, I’m not likely to pass the interview.

I also learned that the USCIS officers do a hell of a fine job processing all those countless citizenship applications.  It is not until you sit in the waiting area and look around at all the people applying that you appreciate the job of a USCIS officer.  I don’t think I’d have enough patience to do it.

Can’t wait to have a US passport!