New tech Book by a Former Dayton Native and Friend

Windows Performance Analysis Field Guide is available on Amazon for pre-order right now.

Root your Asus HD7 Now

I couldn't find complete, straight-forward instructions for rooting my new Asus tablet, so I wrote this article.

Excellent Instructions for Using a Raspberry Pi as a Web Kiosk

I wrote this article as a result of not being able to find clear instructions on who to lock down a web kiosk I built with a Raspberry Pi computer. Learn from my Experience.

ICVerify: All your Woes Easily Solved

This is an explaination of how I cured myself of the ICVerify blues.

10 Must Know Topics for Using PowerPoint as Digital Signage

Learn from my years of usng PowerPoint as Inexpensive Digital Signage. Must Know Topics!

ICVerify “Cannot Start Program” error and Set File

Tutorial on fixing Cannot Start Program Error in ICVerify 4.


#StartYourShift Most Powerful Web Characteristic and Technology Topic Meetups in Dayton, OH

The sinuous, electric current of the Web has had my affection since the mid-1990’s. The Web has changed as I have changed. We have been friends. We have been enemies. The good times have far outweighed the erratic abuse. Though both of us have resisted maturing, the inevitability of time teeming away while we were oblivious.
We met when we were early teens. Well, I was a teen. The Web was stunted middle-ager. It didn’t matter, we got along fine. At first, the Web introduced me to a whole new world. Seemingly infinite knowledge inside our own little world.  We stayed up late discussing whatever we came across. No matter, the topic, the Web was there to introduce me to someone claiming to be an expert. We’d often chat with strangers and even remote friends. The Web could charm most anyone. I joined the revolution.
As the Web and I got more comfortable with one another, boundaries started to erode. We weren’t just limited to discussions. There was an entire underground effort dedicating to undercutting big media. Anything digital we wanted, we could get. Music, no problem. Movies, books, personal information. No problem. We gushed for the cause. We setup machines dedicated to downloading and pooling our prolific media collections. It was a mutinous attitude with a hurricane desire to consume. We thought we were liberators. Samuel Bellamys. Stealing from the rich. Our day of reckoning came during a spring storm. Lightning struck. Drives failed. Hearts broke.
After that, the Web and I would have trickles of interactions. Nothing beyond short chats or mild research. It wasn’t that I was mad at the Web, just disheartened. It wasn’t the same as it used to be. I found work as the Web’s intermediary. I put people in touch with the Web or built them tools to contact the Web, but didn’t spend much time with the Web. I did spent time with other technology. The Web didn’t care. It wasn’t like the Web was lonely anyway. The Web’s charisma stirred all that took an embrace.
It went on like that for years. Then, almost overnight, the Web became the flashiest socialite on the planet. People who didn’t know, let alone understood, the Web were flooding my old friend to make business deals, meet other people, and show off pictures of captioned cats. It was like a cracked dam aching to break. When the ache gave way to relief, the Web flooded the world. Many were happy with the new economy. The Web wasn’t ready for all of the success. In the wake were information overload, exploitation, and disease.  The Web felt used, tired, and was broke.
Trust was hard to earn after that.  The Web had helped the world churn through the great browser wars, standards conflicts, turmoil in the codec regions, and taught governments how to be masters of espionage. It didn’t matter. The Web spent most days contained in the dark pouring out demons bred from the nastiest recesses of human emotion.  I would occasionally get a call beckoning me to join in. These demons paid well, but they paid in self-fulfilling coin.  Like the initial tidal, these times also crashed against breakers. The friends left to tend to public affairs now wanted to control all of the Web’s affairs. All that self-fulfillment was worthless. Glad I missed out.
With a computer, there is light, but our souls still seek sunlight. Washed into daylight, flaws exposed, the Web drifted upon me in a moment of thought.  The face-paced years were highlighted on Web’s face. We skimmed through topics wafting on about the good that has been done and bemoaning the bad. Our squally relationship now sailing upon stiller seas is set to cross regularly as I release my frustration and seek a deeper understanding of the Web.
 Some time after that initial reunion, I learned the dark-circled eyes of the Web were not that of someone whom had been beaten.  They belong to someone who had found sleeplessness in another passion. That passion was for a toddler that now tagged along only knowing the good of the Web. The child’s eyes housed the same vibrating urge to change the world that once crackled in the Web’s gaze. I can only hope that along with the heart, the child also finds the Web’s most powerful characteristic; fluidity.

For those of you in my various social media circles wondering what in the word I am talking about above, know I haven’t gone crazy.  It is my contribution to the writing project, Start You Shift (@startyourshift ; #StartYourShift), to produce unique perspectives on topics relevant to the web industry.  May’s topic is to write about the characteristic of the web you feel is the most powerful. I was introduced to this effort during a recent Dayton Web Developers meetup at local web design firm Sparkbox’ facility.  The are located right behind the Proto BuildBar which is next to design firm Real Art. Actually it has been a busy couple weeks going to various meetups.
During the lightning talks that were presented I learned about several things which I would like to share.

  • The open source map software Leafletjs, a WordPress plugin for it, and the associated CDN.
  • A local Dayton company also developed the software which uses the SDK for MIT backed emotion recognition software Affectiva, Apache Cassandra, and NoSQL to package together an app that reads your face and collects tons of data points while you watch political videos. Very cool.
  • There was a presentation on Webpack, a modular bundler, that I found quite interesting.
  • There was also a high level talk on design elements which recommended the book Responsive Web Design by EthanMarcotte.

That same week I attended a DaytonCodePen meetup that video conferenced in Rachel Smith from She showed us how to manipulate SVG graphics with html, CSS, and javascript through the CodePen site. Fascinating stuff.  This was hosted in the new Barry Staff building on Webster Street.  Nice building.  Here I met Ricardo Zea, among others, who has written two books on web design called Mastering Responsive Web Design and Web Developer's Reference Guide.  We learned about the GreenSock libraries. As well as several color selections tools:, 0to255, Adobe Kuler (recently renamed to Color) 

Next, I attended a Dayton UserExperience meetup.  It was on the Pomiet side of the Graphica building in Miamisburg. Another nice facility. There Mike Miserendino and Suzi Shapiro from GravityDrive gave a talk on user experience tactics. I didn’t get to stay and mingle here due to prior obligations.

I look forward to going back to each of these meetups and several of the other Dayton groups.  It is excellent to see such wonderful communities in the area.  I only found all of these due to the power of the web. I am quite fond of the site/app.  It sincerely helps people connect with interesting groups.  If you are interesting in expanding your universe come on out to some of these local groups.Ruby development house Little Lines is host a meetup soon.  Maybe my friends at Lion and Panda will put one on some day too.

I hope you don't find the above link-a-poloza off-putting. I wanted to share all the tidbits I picked up before I forgot them.


Inspired: Getting employees to love your entrepreneurial baby.

I’ve been asked several times how to get employees to care more about their employer as a whole and as a culture. Fundamentally, how to get the Peter Gibbons’ of the world who are shouting, “It’s not that I’m lazy, it’s that I just don’t care,” to actually care. I’m not talking dangling carrot promotion caring or a dollar more per hour caring. I’m talking work is my life, it is practically all I think about, it is all I want to do, my identity is my work caring. And then not just a handful of those people, but an entire company full of them.

If you say impossible, then you are part of the problem.

You must first be inspired. It will energize you. It will help you clarify your goal(s). It will help you remove doubt. Just convincing yourself that you can be an agent of positive change can be inspiring.
Once you are inspired, share your vision with your audience in mind. Discuss what you want to transform, why you want to transform it, and how it will help your audience. If done well, it will inspire others. Inspiration and positivity is infectious. You may have to try a few time before you get it right.

Once you do get it right, you will find people that will not partake in your vision. Treat them like cancer. Remove them from your ecosystem. Negativity and second-guessing cause cancer, apply inspirational chemotherapy as needed. If you cannot eliminate the bad vibes, preform a preventative surgery and remove the attitude before cancer forms. It is better a bridge burns than a village.

Make sure you take action upon your vision in a timely manner while your team is revved up.  Vision without action is just a daydream. Daydreamers are slackers. Nobody follows a slacker into battle.
Find quick wins to supplement your momentum during phases of slow action.

Remember to celebrate your victories. This helps to keep morale up, momentum forward, and energy positive.

Keep in mind team members roles. Leaders help people become more than they are. Managers help people be better at who they are. Supervisors make sure people are doing the best at what they are supposed to be doing. If everyone on the team is a true believer in the task for which they are working, inspiration will come from every team member. Even so, everyone must respect each other. 

Personally, I feel it is better to have a sense of working with someone rather than working for someone. It makes achieving a goal more collaborative than authoritative. If you are a smart boss, and I hope you are, you are hiring highly skilled people, who are experts at what they do. That would mean they are smarter than you in at least some contexts. You shouldn’t be telling them what to do, you should be asking them what to do and listening when they tell you.

If you aren’t hiring the best people and opt for people with which you feel the most comfortable, fill the very narrow perception of the position, and/or are just prefer subservient individuals, you are part of your company’s problem. Your employees know it and they are probably miserable. You will only be able to inspire mutiny.

Getting inspired or inspiring others isn’t difficult. People typically want to be useful and like being part of a group with positive impact. It is not about money, power, or other rewards. Keeping the inspiration alive, however, takes a great deal of work. Doing so may mean rewiring your entire brain to react to situations completely differently. My, as well as many others, typical first reaction to adversity is some combination of annoyance, anger, and frustration. You may want to place blame, scream, shoot/strangle/behead the messenger, and all around generally berate people and throw a tantrum. As an inspiration leader, you can’t do that. You must find the opportunity in the challenge. I’ll bring up the Charles Swindoll quote again,” Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” That is practically my mantra in challenging situations. In my version, life only gets 5% though. No one is perfect. Unless you’ve been trained this way all your life, adjusting now will take time.

Another part of keeping people inspired, is keeping their respect. To do that, you have to act respectful. You can’t slap people around, threaten them, or intimidate them. Nor should you publicly ridicule them, call them names, or treat them to any action that violates the laws that govern your location (or theirs if they are virtual). Stuff like denying health care to pregnant women stating it’s a pre-existing condition when a merger forced a health care provider switch, harassing people over anything that is (and should be) covered in titled 7 or any of the other many HR related laws, not paying overtime, inappropriate touching, this list could go on endlessly, but I think you get my point. Believe it or not, this stuff still goes on in the United States. I read about it every day in various HR and legal blogs and magazines. If you are guilty of any of these (and beyond), just stop. It's treatment like this that could re-surge unionization.

Now, in a small group with a single task that will disband quickly, inspiration may be all you need to carry your group through to success. Anything beyond that, will need some clear goals and some success metrics. The more complex your organization, potentially, the more complex your goal structure. For example, in a typical small to medium sized business (SMB) the executives would set the corporate level goals such as increase sales, decrease expenses, and utilize assets better. Then there would be easy to use metric associated with them. We can argue over whether we need lead and lag in another post. Here an example of a metric for better utilize assets would be to have a specific machine run at 90% rather than 80. Then the next level down would set goals for their staff that were directly in line with those corporate level goals. Using the a global sales manager as the next rung in the hierarchy, he would set goals for his staff such as increasing the number of cold calls reps do which should increase sales and making the reps request office supplies directly from the central office rather than buying them on their own in an effort to decrease expenses. I think you get the drift, as the goals cascade down, they get more job/individually specific, but is still directly in line with the overall corporate plan. I’m sure this is not news to you. Let me ask though, are you doing this properly? Really? I’m constantly surprised at how many companies big and small have departmentally silo-ed goals that are skewed or in direct conflict with corporate plans.

Another key to inspirational leadership success; eliminate the unimportant/non-value add/poorly designed tasks that are roadblocks to getting valuable work done. Also, if you are still using Excel and Access to manage and communicate a good portion of your data…just stop. There are better solutions. That is for another post too. Back to my point, nothing kills an inspiration buzz, like having to halt work on an exciting task to do some task that could be automated “if we could just find the time.”  There are lots of reasons manual process still permeate our technologically inclined world, being in IT I know better than some, but as a corporate leader, you have the power to disappear tedious processes. And you should. They are stealing money out of your gross margins.

Furthermore, as a leader, you should make sure you have a good way to track wins for not only the team, but for each individual too. Making sure people are recognized for their part of the team’s success helps ensure they will continue to enjoying being part of the team. Also, if you are going to call out an individual for a victory, make sure that victory wasn’t a team effort. Even if you mean well, doing this will bring instant discord to a team. If this happens to your team, make sure it is addressed immediately. Even just an email apologizing for the mistake. If your team lead or the person who misspoke won’t address the issue, find a new job, the team will be toxic in a few months.  These wins should be noted somewhere so that it can be addressed on the next personnel review. 

Now, annual performance reviews are only as effective as the company makes them. If the company treats them like they are important, they will be important. Otherwise, they will be a joke and will fall into the non-value add section above. Also, once a year is a long time to go to get feedback on performance that is supposed to be tied directly to the corporate goals. Quarterly might be more effective. I’ve also always been a fan on the 360 degree review. When people are honest, it can lead to a better understanding of one’s strengths and weaknesses.  

So far, we’ve only addressed the matter from the perspective of teams or companies with existing personnel. If you get to hire your team, you can weed out negative, clock watchers with good probing interview questions. Meeting people face to face, reviewing their resume and experience with them, and having them talk with other team members can all be fairly simple ways to find solid team members.

As you can tell, getting a dream team isn’t so much about finding perfect people. Yes getting people with the capacity to accept your vision and inspiration is as important as finding ones with the correct skill set for the job. It’s more about getting your mind in place to mold your people into the perfect team, then eliminating roadblocks in the workplace. It sounds easy on paper. It starts being easier when you become a leader and stop being a boss.

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Enthusiasms in Conflict Resolution

Issues. Problems. Push back. Trouble. No matter what you call it, conflict arises in many of life's situations. In my childhood, I was adept at causing conflict. Whether that conflict was with my parents, brother, or caused out with my friends, didn't matter. I was good at causing it. In many instances the conflict was nothing more than me running my mouth in direct opposition to whatever will was trying to be imposed on me. Never anything much that couldn't be cure with an "I'm sorry."

However, my real hard knocks introduction to the topic of conflict management came down Bookwalter Drive one summer in the form of three kids a few years my elder and a red aluminum baseball bat. I'll relay this story in PG language for the more conservative readers out there. While I was about 12 at the time, the exchanges were certainly rated R. Anywhere the speech feels awkward, it’s because a soft word has replaced a profanity. I still cannot to this day remember when I ran my mouth at those kids. Nor have I shared this story much lest someone uncover the groveling and tears that led up to the denouement.

Regardless, walking home from a friend’s house, I round the corner from Carmen to Bookwalter. There were no iPods or affordable cell phones at this point, nor did I have a Walkman yet, so my hearing was in no way impaired. I distinctly saw these three much bigger kids, made eye contact, then the one in the middle pointed the bat at me and said, "Hey, it's that mouthy boy from the other day. Get him!"

I froze. Coincidentally, this was the first time I experienced the lag in one's flight or fight responses. The delay was enough to let the skinniest boy grab me and pin my arms behind me. He held me there while the one with the bat, a blonde, freckled kid, approached to say, "Who's the boy now, fella." I'd like to say I was heroic. But I was panicked. I tried commanding them to let me go, threatening to call the cops, and just plain struggling. It didn't work. They just laughed. The third boy kicked me in the leg and punched me in the arm. I started crying. I apologized. I promised to be nice. Bat kid just said, "You really are the boy now. Arentcha? Hold him there." He drew back the bat into an off-center stance.

This exchange had probably lasted 45 seconds. While it felt much longer, not much else in my life has felt longer than waiting for his shoulder to lurch forward. I envisioned myself battered and beaten. Much like the guy at the end of Robert De Niro's enthusiasms speech in the movie "Untouchables." Except the panic had subsided due to the adrenaline kicking in. When his shoulder twitched, I stepped forward fast. This left Skinny on the receiving end on the bat's barrel. Blondie’s wrists snapped into the upper part of my rib cage and the bat came to rest snugly under my armpit. I swiveled to the right with the bat and slid to a more adjudicated position. The bat dropped cleanly into my grip. I raised it above my head screaming, "You boys are freaked now."

They ran. My hands shook a bit. Then I walked home with my new bat.

Usually a victory doesn't solidify a story’s morale quite as well as a loss. If you are expecting the morale of the story to be that I learned to hold my tongue, you’d be quite wrong. However, I certainly learned a few valuable lessons about conflict and its resolution. I’ll name several, but I don’t want to get all Art of War on you. 
  1. Conflict can come at any time.
  2. Your typical resolution methods may not work, be willing to append them to the situation.
  3. It is better to react before you are pinned
  4. If you get the sense that the person you are in conflict with may want nothing more than to watch you lose something, take the smallest hit possible, and exit promptly.
  5. Staying calm is absolutely required.
  6. Knocking those in conflict off balance may tilt the situation in your favor.
  7. Just because you are outnumbered, have a poor position, and are out gunned (hopefully metaphorically), does not mean that given the right moment the situation won’t turn in your favor. 

As an adult, I’d consider my adolescent assaults an unsuccessful resolution. Typically, you’d want both parties leaving feeling that they have come to an amicable agreement to their conflict on their own.   In my situation, only one part left happy. Granted, success is all in how you define your metrics. Since I never ran into those boys again, maybe it was a good enough resolution. I know the bat served me well in all our pickup baseball games over the years. I should probably get it out of my garage and give it to someone who can use it. Maybe I should get it engraved to say, “This is what you get when your mouth runs faster than your feet.” 

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Your bosses always seem like idiots? Maybe you’re the idiot.

     Ever notice how many books, seminars, videos, etc, there are on improving leadership, being a better manager, and improving your company’s processes?  Could this be because the people in charge are all stupid? Could it be because the employees are all apathetic and pre-occupied with social media? Maybe a bit of both, maybe none of the above. Depends on where you are.

     Follow me for a minute here. This holiday weekend was pretty quiet for me as my family gatherings all took place on Thursday and my wife had to work the rest of the time. I used the time to make a list of leadership topics that I would like to write about for Linkedin. As I glanced back through the topics, I realized they were all about how to improve leadership and that my previous post was blasting Best Buy’s executive team. This slid my brain into a thought about how we, as a general populous, tend to complain that the people in charge of anything, are idiots. Whether it be our politicians, our corporate leaders, your direct manager (not mine), or the poor kid running the carousel at the mall during the holiday madness. We always tend to think, no matter what situation we are in, we can do it better, faster, with more pizzazz, and for less money (maybe) than the current regime. Is that always a bad thing? No. Are we always wrong? No.

     However, what is the common factor in every situation we are in? It is us. You are the only person in every situation in your life. So if everyone around you seems like an idiot, maybe you are the problem. Maybe you are being impatient. Maybe your expectations are too high. Maybe you just all around suck. If you laughed there, we would probably get along. If you feel insulted, know I am joking. Or am I. Maybe the sentence isn’t offensive, maybe you’re just over-sensitive.  Anyway, I think you get my point.

     My go to quote for topics concerning reactionary behavior is from Charles Swindoll. He wrote," Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it." I first heard that from a local small business owner who runs a tanning salon and spa over in Miamisburg, Ohio. I’ve adopted it for my own now. My point is rather than just assume someone is an idiot, take a second to assess their perspective. This must be a rational exercise and not an emotional one. 

     Now, let’s apply this to being an employee. How many of you are guilty of getting directions or feedback from your manager that upsets you, then at the first available opportunity, lash out emotionally declaring your boss is the pointy-haired devil incarnate? Is he really that bad or are you being the idiot? If you were in your manager’s position and had to deal with the situation in a non-biased, corporately homogenized methodology, would you act similarly?

     Let’s take this from another perspective. Everyone knows how you are supposed to park your car in a parking space. You have 3 lines. You pull your bumper up to the front most line while centering your car in between the two perpendicularly parallel lines. Or some variation of those directions based on the augmented version of parking you might be doing. Most people also get some version of annoyed/aggravated/enraged to the point of homicide when other people don’t park correctly. Now what happens to you when you don’t or can’t park 100 percent correctly? Personally, I feel a little guilty but move on. So why is it that I feel much worse when I see people who have parked poorly than when I actually park poorly myself? It is about expectation and control. We expect people to behave respectfully and responsibly, but when they don’t and we can’t do anything about it, that powerlessness moves us to emotion. Mine is typically some form of anger.  Parking is so simple and common. Yet multiple times a day we see people who can’t seem to or don’t car to get their car in the spot correctly. Your boss’s job is to make sure you park correctly each and every day without being mean or emotional about the situation when you do it wrong. Would you get mad if there was a person in the parking lot making sure people parked correctly? Most people would say probably not. Now would you get mad if the parking manager made you correct your parking? Most will say of course not, but we know better, don't we.

     Taking this example a step further, let’s image you are the parking manager for the United States of America. Your job is to ensure that everyone in the country parks exactly within specification and manage the human factors that lead to parking deviations. Your duties will include training people how to park in specific situations, listening to excuses on why situations fell outside of the allotted directions, dealing with people who just don’t care, and hopefully remembering to thank all the people who actually do what you ask them to do. How do you ensure everyone follows directions while trying to be as nice as possible about it? How do you do that when you find yourself repeating yourself over and over and over and over again? How about when that repetition is directed at the same few people? Do you ever repeat the same mistakes...if yes, see tagline.

     Now let’s take the parking metaphor and apply it a typical manager’s job. Everything that seems simple and straight-forward, gets complicated when you add people. As the number of people involved increases, so does the difficultly of doing everything. Hopefully, your manager doesn't want to make every decision for you. Good managers typically want high-performing, independent, experienced people working for them so the need to manage them is minimal. Do you think your manager feels like she is managing a fleet of highly trained, precision drivers for her parking lot or ya’ll a bunch of orangutans hooting and honking at each other?  Do you feel like you make your manager’s job easier or harder? Be honest.

     Remember, leaders/managers/bosses are people too. They are not perfect. On days when I find my smugness fogging the mirror, I recall what Chuck Palahnuik wrote for his character Tyler Durden to say. “You are not a beautiful or unique snowflake. You are the same decaying organic matter as everyone else, and we are all a part of the same compost pile.” While that may seem depressing to some, I see it as liberating. I see it as permission to set aside hierarchy, eschew the class system, and ultimately see everyone as an equal. I’m betting if you try to be less emotional employee and see things from your manager’s perspective, you may just start having better days at work.  As Charles Franklin wrote, “No one gets out of this life alive. So leave a footprint of your choice. You are writing your epitaph.” Let that foot-printed epitaph be some world changing solutions. If nothing else, start working with your boss, instead of just for your boss.

**Note: I use Leader, manager, boss, and supervisor interchangeable here. They are not the same. In this article, they are used to mean the person to which you report. 

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Best Buy Shoots Own Foot, Blames Amazon: Why Best Buy is still failing to compete with Amazon.

Recently, I had the need to obtain two Toshiba convertible ultra-book computers in a hurry as the laptops they would be replacing had not only aged out but started showing signs of pending hard drive failure. Furthermore, the staff members that required the replacements were going to be out of town on business soon. I did not want them to suffer a disk crash on the road.

While I have become a sincere fan of the Dell XPS 12 2-in-1 convertible laptops, Dell could not meet my timeline. Toshiba’s Satellite Radius is a solid second place for my purpose even with the specifications being very similar. Now, Toshiba couldn't sell me their Satellite Radius with my required specs directly from the manufacturer, so said the rep I called at the number on the website. That left me to Google my requirements along with the make and model. Low and behold, Best Buy carried a model that was so close to what I needed I considered it a win. Almost, I had to verify it was in stock near me. I was ready to drive an hour or more to pick them up. Surprisingly, I didn't have to make that drive. They were in stock 10 minutes away. I placed the $2400+ order for two laptops without blinking. I received an email shortly saying I could pick the items up in the store in 30-40 minutes. It was 6 pm already.

After meeting my wife for dinner, I made my way to Best Buy to get the new devices. Around 7:30 pm, I walked right up to the pick-up counter, gave the associate my order number, and was promptly informed the laptops had not arrived yet. After shaking off my initial shock, I inquired as to why the product needed to arrive. I was told that those laptops weren't in stock at the store at that they were brought in by a truck on demand from a central location. She said that even though I received an email saying I could pick up the item in 30 minutes, the fine print said I needed to wait for a confirmation of arrival. I then asked if the truck was guaranteed to make it to the store before they closed for the night. She could not confirm, but urged me to wait a bit as she was pretty sure it would arrive before closing. Not exactly the reassurance for which I had hoped.

I had expected to be back at the office with the machines by 8 pm to start setting them up for their new users. However, I resigned to having to start that the next morning and used the time to look around. It got me thinking about why Best Buy is still Amazon’s showroom.
Best Buy has at least three major advantages over Amazon. Those are the physical locations, the onsite staff, and the in-store pick-up functionality. One could make the argument that the quality of inventory or at least the presence of onsite inventory is an advantage for Best Buy. I’m writing that one off as null. Amazon can get a good portion of its inventory to you next day. Some of Best Buy’s “inventory” has to be ordered and delivered to you. Next day will cost you more than Amazon's $3.99 (for Amazon Prime members - totally worth the investment).

The stores are an advantage because you can go there and experience a product.  Sure, you can set the mood and shopping experience from the moment the customer walkers through the door, but that’s being done with a web page too. Experiencing a product is great as you can touch it, see its actual size, feel its quality, and otherwise demo the product. Video and pictures rarely beat real life. Especially when it comes to 4K televisions. Furthermore, you can buy it now it in the most immediate sense of the phrase. No waiting for shipment, just waiting in line. You can also easily return product once the feelings of gratification wear off.  Amazon has made their best efforts to get you a great experience, but manipulating a product in person is something you just can’t do on the web.

Another advantage should be the in store staff. They have the opportunity to talk to you about products and services of which you may be unfamiliar. Ideally, the staff members would be highly knowledgeable about the products in the departments they represent. This would allow you to get well-rounded answers to any questions you may have about Best Buy hosted products and services. Plus, from a business stand point, staff members should be trained to cross, complimentary, and up-sell. Amazon certainly has this down.

The last advantage Best Buy should have over Amazon is the In-Store Pickup capability. It’s pretty excellent to be able to pick a product online, buy it, then just go pick it up. No shopping around, dealing with crowds, or overzealous sales staff. Just a quick, efficient sale. I realize this isn't a new concept. As a tech and business process guy, I can’t help but be amazed at all the pieces that have to work together to get this to work correctly. It is wonderful when it does.

That is just a short four paragraph highlight of the concept I am presenting here. I could probably write an entire book on the subject quoting from the shelves of books behind me, the cliff-notes on, and the intellectual auditory at Email me, if you’d like to present me an offer on that book. Anyway, by now, you've probably guessed my experience as less than idyllic.
If that was your guess, you win a soft, slow clap. This Best Buy experience, and my last to date, was typical of most big box retailers. I walked in and was ignored by the staff present by the front door. The associate at the counter was only as helpful as I made her be and only friendly enough not to illicit abuse from patrons. As I walked around, biding my time until the delivery truck arrived, I decided to see if there was any actual service in Best Buy’s customer service. I’m a normal looking guy, am not a teenager, and was dressed in business casual clothing. Most people would assume I am at the store to buy something. So let’s find out how it worked out.

My first stop was the TV section. I expect that this must be Best Buy’s backbone as the department was well staffed and the team members were friendly and knowledgeable. Music, movies, car stereos, small appliances, and large appliances were ghost towns. No one was around to help. The computer section was a more interesting story. Lots of staff in that section. I counted 8 people. I spent a good 30 minutes in this section scrutinizing equipment before anyone said hello. I did two more laps through the entire section, accessories and all, before I went to check on the status of my “in store pick-up.”

At this point, it is just short of 8:30 pm. I’m told the status of the delivery truck is unknown. I head back over to the computer section. I stand next to an associate who is standing next to a customer who is doing nothing but staring at the model of laptop I want to ask a question about. I am annoyed, ready to leave, and want to yell at someone. However, I find weird humor in the odd situation of three strangers just standing by a laptop staring at it for no reason. This probably went on for a good five minutes or more before I was asked if I needed help.

Finally, I was able to ask if the Toshiba Satellite Radius here on display with a slightly different SKU number varied much from the models I ordered online. Turns out they were identical. Rationally, you’d think the in store pick-up associate could fulfill my order with the identical stock that is onsite. However, turns out she can’t. It is against policy or the computer can’t do it. I’m not sure. I just had her cancel the order. I let the computer associate get credit for selling two laptops and left the indecisive customer looking for a different model as I got the last two in stock.

While the computer associate was friendly, his up-selling technique was weak. After I finished telling him that I was an IT manager and that these laptops were needed urgently to replace failing hardware, he gives me the standard “do you need Geek Squad support” spiel. He also tried so sell me McAfee. When I mention Avast, he promptly states that he’s never heard of it and that it might not be that good. For those readers unfamiliar with the Avast Anti-virus suite, it has ranked very highly in multiple consumer and professional tests. It always beats McAfee by leaps and bounds. Plus, any real geek knows that McAfee is the Pinto of antivirus software.

Anyway, the point of this story is that Best Buy has a golden opportunity with every customer to show why they are better than Amazon, but they don’t. My experience isn't unusual. Best Buy has opted to go with low salary, under trained employees. Customer service is barely an afterthought. Policies for fulfilling orders aren't well thought out. Shopping at Best Buy’ current essence reminds me of the Circuit City experience…remember them?

I also remember a time when Best Buy did have knowledgeable, well trained employees who were happy to help. I would target that period around 2000-ish. Maybe I just thought they were smart because I knew much less. Can anyone confirm the Best Buy Experience had declined significantly?

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LogMeIn Central One2Many Automated, Silent 3rd Party App Update for Oracle Java, Adobe Flash, Adobe Reader, Adobe Shockwave, and Adobe Air #PricelesGeek #LogMeIn

So I spent a good deal of time trying to figure out how to update 3rd party applications on a regular basis.  I wanted to regularly update my fleet of computers with new version of Flash, Java, Reader, Air, and Shockwave.  Since I couldn't find solid instructions on how to do this, I wrote this post.  I hope it helps.

The first think I needed to do was to register for a Distribution license with Adobe. It was pretty quick to do and can be done here.

Once I did that I tracked down the download link URLs for each product.

Then I downloaded a windows utility to pull down the new files called HttpCopy.

Next I created a batch file to use HttpCopy to download the files for each product, then silently install them.

The contents of the batch file look like this:
"C:\Program Files (x86)\httpcopy\HttpCopy.exe" "" "c:\ProgramData\LogMeIn\3rdPartyUpdates\Java64.exe"
"C:\Program Files (x86)\httpcopy\HttpCopy.exe" "" "c:\ProgramData\LogMeIn\3rdPartyUpdates\AdobeAir.exe"
"C:\Program Files (x86)\httpcopy\HttpCopy.exe" "" "c:\ProgramData\LogMeIn\3rdPartyUpdates\FlashOther.exe"
"C:\Program Files (x86)\httpcopy\HttpCopy.exe" "" "c:\ProgramData\LogMeIn\3rdPartyUpdates\FlashIE.exe"
"C:\Program Files (x86)\httpcopy\HttpCopy.exe" "" "c:\ProgramData\LogMeIn\3rdPartyUpdates\AdobeShockwave.exe"
"C:\Program Files (x86)\httpcopy\HttpCopy.exe" "" "c:\ProgramData\LogMeIn\3rdPartyUpdates\AdobeReader.exe"
"C:\ProgramData\LogMeIn\3rdPartyUpdates\AdobeAir.exe" -silent -eulaAccepted
"C:\ProgramData\LogMeIn\3rdPartyUpdates\AdobeShockwave.exe" /S
"C:\ProgramData\LogMeIn\3rdPartyUpdates\FlashIE.exe" -install
"C:\ProgramData\LogMeIn\3rdPartyUpdates\FlashOther.exe" -install
"C:\ProgramData\LogMeIn\3rdPartyUpdates\Java64.exe" /s
Then I created tasks to push out Http Copy and the Bat file.

Lastly, I create a remote command to run the batch file. It took about 7 minutes for each computer to download and install the files.  I plan on running the batch file about once a week.

Please note that the computers used here were 64bit and have User Access Control disabled.

My next step is to turn off update notifications for these products on the end users machines.

I do realize this is an imperfect hack. Particularly, because the Adobe Reader link is prone to change and it required UAC to be disabled. Please comment on this if it helps you or if you have a better way to do this.

This info has been posted to the LogMeIn community also.

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Transforming HR through Self-Improvement: 30 Must Read Books #EmployeeLifeCycle #HR #SMB #HRMS #PricelessGeek

     Recently, I had to start looking for a new developer to fill the needs of our private sector SMB located in a small town. Not just any developer though. I was looking for a unique combination of Windows application, web, and database development as well as project management experience with a strong inclination to be the senior, lead, and solo internal developer on our projects. Furthermore, the person had to be a good fit for our culture. To complicate the search even more, we were also competing with a large public sector entity for individuals with similar skills sets. For those who aren't aware, it is quite difficult for a small town SMB to compete with government benefits, perks, and work schedules. Even so, I considered the challenge accepted and moved forward with the interviewing.

     Aside from my own brushes with Human Resources as a younger, more difficult to manage employee, interviewing isn't my first foray into HR activities. Starting a couple years ago, I managed a project to implement a HRMS which converted the non-scalable, manual, paper-based processes we had into streamlined, digital processes with actionable data. That project took approximately 18 months and while it had a positive impact on HR as a cost center, the real benefit came from freeing up HR resources to do more proactive initiatives

     That HRMS project opened my eyes to many of the administrative challenges faced by HR professionals. Even so, the challenging hiring process awakened me to the challenges of recruitment. Coupling that new experience with other ongoing projects involving employee education, cross-functional training, and knowledge management as well as undertaking leadership training myself, I had a strong urge to increase my education surrounding employee life cycle management.

     As a book worm, I immediately went to Google to find lists of the highest rated books on each topical section of the employee life cycle. It didn't take long before becoming frustrated by the lack of a trustworthy list. What I found were lists that were skewed towards an agencies offerings, only the latest offerings, or dry, textbook type publications.

     The result was that I spent a great deal of time tracking down books that I believe represent the best of each category. Please know that this list is contained within my personal purview as I have not read every book known to human kind. I have also limited each section to only a five items. My philosophy is that technology and communication methods have greatly changed how people work from even 1990 (almost 25 years ago), so I have picked books mostly from the year 2000 forward. Most are more recent. I did not feel the need to review these book as each is well reviewed on Amazon. You will notice that the list includes books on the subject at hand as well as soft skills associated with each topic. Lastly, I intentionally did not include books that focused on improving company leadership. If your company doesn't have good leaders, especially as an SMB, you may want to focus on your own resume.

     If you find this helpful or feel like I am missing the book that is most important to you, please let me know by leaving a comment. Now without further adieu, here is the list.
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