Archive for February, 2009

Top 10 Useless Facebook Profile Pictures

February 28th, 2009 No comments

I understand that some people don’t like pictures of themselves. I am not particularly fond of my own picture.  That being said, the profile picture on Facebook is designed to have a picture of you and it has a purpose.  

Nothing makes it more difficult to recognize that long lost friend request, than having to recognize somebody you saw 15 years ago by a picture of their cat. Let’s review the top most confusing pictures you can use to make sure I won’t add you as a friend.  Now I grabbed these from random people in the system, only so I wouldn’t poke direct pictures at my own friends.   I have every one of these examples  in my own list of friends.



Number one is the silhouette.   If you haven’t gotten around to putting any photo in the system, then shame on you.  Perhaps you shouldn’t even be on Facebook, because really if we are all sharing more than we normally would, what makes you so special?  If it is your first day and you are technically slow, you have an exception.  Before you start adding friends into your list however, figure this one out.  


The dog ImageNumber two has to be the pet photo.  Becuase I am sure that if I haven’t seen you in 10 years, I will of course know that you have a white dog.  What would make it even better is if you tag the photo with your name in it.  Unless you are living proof that The Shaggy Dog does exist, keep the dog pictures in your photo section. 


The Distance PhotoNumber three is great, because I can clearly see that is you 500 yards off in the distance.  This one applies to those awesome scenic pictures you also took on vacation.  If I can’t recognize you in the picture, and I didn’t know you were on a vacation to the Grand Canyon or wherever, how can I know who you are?



 I am known for my cars.  I appreciate that perhaps more than most people.  I run car club in town, and my avatar is a picture of my car on that site.  On that site it is appropriate to use a car because people remember each other by their car.  Facebook is not the place to have a picture of your car or motorcycle as your Facebook image. What happens to those people in grade school who didn’t even know I had a drivers license? 


babyimageBaby pictures come with a clause.  If you are a new parent you have a month to show off your pride and joy before I call party foul.  After that, you should be able to manage picking up the kid and take a picture of the both of you.  I realize there is a lot of “he has your eyes” that happens with a newborn child.   They all lie when that kid first comes out, and I can’t not recognize you by your baby.


thefingerBeing a proud parent doesn’t go away. You will be tempted to fall into this clause.  I can not blame you, after all most of the kids I know are pretty awesome.  If you post the picture in your PHOTOS section however, we still all see it.  Once you are past that infant clause of one month, I need to see you in the photo as well. 



This one is deceiving, because it is actually a picture of me.  In fairness, there may be a handful of people that do recognize this from my old neighborhood.  However putting a picture of a younger version of yourself is the opposite of cool.  We know you are avoiding the fact that you are old.  We all are old, get over it.   Skip past the picture you liked of yourself in high school too. (unless you are still there)


angelinaUnless you are a celebrity, posting up a picture of one is just lame and somewhat creepy.  Although it may not be as creepy as the octuplet mom Nadya Suleman’s obsession with that Angelina Jolie, it is still lame.  These people are not real. If you haven’t come to terms with the way you look by now, you never will.   


the obligitory imageIf you can’t take a picture of yourself, or something even related to you, why not take a picture of a completely inadament object?  That helps a lot.  I try and take great photos, and perhaps one out of every thousand is actually good.  So when you have that moment of zen when the camera happens to look past your photogenic inadequecies,  put it in your photos, not your profile.

peacesymbolThe ultimate symbol of laziness and avoidance is to choose an actual symbol.  This way you avoid the whole problem of posting a photo up of yourself.  I definitely will recognize you by this one.

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Software Regulations NY

February 23rd, 2009 No comments

On January 12, experts from over 30 US and international security organizations released the consensus list of the 25 most dangerous programming errors.

The procurement language under development by the State of New York and other state governments already is being adjusted to use the Top 25 Errors in the process.

For companies who sell software to state or government agencies, they may run into these restrictions rather quickly. It is unclear on whether or not these restrictions will apply to legacy software already in place. While I would hope that all software is met with a certain level of scrutiny to keep it secure, those legacy applications are more prevelant than we might expect.

It would be in everybody best interest to review your software development process and start to think about compliance to these regulations.

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The Voice Cloud has arrived

February 20th, 2009 No comments

The solutions available for bringing a phone call to your desk have matured greatly over the past 10 years. The past three years however have brought an entirely new solution to the market for businesses, with the maturing of hosted VoIP infrastructures and what consider to be “cloud based VoIP”. The availability of these products has almost moved too fast, as many organizations are not ready to understand the implications, but the opportune time to jump on is now.

3com NBX PhoneWhen we approached a new phone system back in 1998, we really didn’t have any resistance when I suggested a VoIP system. At that time the cost to maintain or even expand our Intuity Audix based platform was ridiculous. I think it cost upwards of $10K to add a line card to the system to expand 10 internal phone lines. The cost of the new system was almost insignificant in comparison. Choosing a platform was a huge technology commitment at the time, only having a handful of platforms to choose from, knowing it would have to last for another 10 years.

Shortly after 3com bought NBX, we bought into their solution, largely driven by the ease of use of the platform. We saved the company hundreds of thousands in implementation alone, putting systems in our offices around North America ourselves. Fast forward 10 years and we are running off of a relatively zero cost VoIP platform to maintain.

Those 10 years moved fast however, and it is time again to get back to the drawing board to define a new generation of voice requirements. We have grown over 46% in personnel over the past 5 years and we have more visibility of our actions, as globalization brings us closer together. Our once robust system is now outdated and undersized, leaving us incapable of delivering the same advantages we have in the Americas to the rest of our corporation worldwide. We were ready to expand our system into new offices in 2006, knowing the system would not scale to support the direction it was taking us.

In 2007 the discussions began of “what to do next?” to bring us all up to a unified communications platform? In 2007, the direction was easy. The industry had matured greatly, bringing some huge vendors to market for us to build a more robust VoIP platform. We would of course go with a larger vendor, capable of supporting more phones, and had more of a worldwide presence to support all of our offices. At the time, the only thing we heard about hosted voice services was our friends who were struggling with home voice solutions like Vonage. Hosted VoIP services for business were un-polished and deemed unreliable.

Turn that 2007 VoIP discussion into a 2008 project and the industry had started to change. I remember writing up the proposal in 2008, noting that “cloud” based services for VoIP will surpass our internal decision process. I knew it would become a more attractive option before we ever get a phone on a desk. Here we are in 2009 and nobody could have predicted how fast that cloud came. We have a budget in place, we have management on board, and everybody is ready to pull a trigger on laying down a new VoIP infrastructure. Internally, this would be the worst possible time to mention that there is a better solution. Knowing myself however, I would regret not moving putting up a flag now in two years.

That cloud, which we knew of in 2007, spotted on the horizon in 2008, is right on top of us in 2009. Fueled by the economic drop outs in 2008, the Hosted based VoIP platform has taken legs and is the most approachable, low risk option for any size company considering replacing their phone system. Remove all of the deployment overheads, lead times, and interoperability problems you have with deploying your own platform in an organization and you are left with the hosted VoIP solutions today.

Providers will take all of your phone numbers, trunk them together and deliver your voice to your desk within days, not months. Take an office that has an old PBX still in place, and they will put some SIP gateways in place so you can maintain your phones if you want. Most important is that you aren’t buying into a solution, knowing it might change leaving you stuck with outdated hardware. You are renting or paying into a solution that will evolve with the advancements, and reduce your investment dollars.

If you find yourself at the same crossroads of entering into VoIP by developing a self managed platform, move cautiously. You cannot predict is how management will react to a shift in direction. It feels somewhat like running out in front of a train, expecting it to hop tracks, without losing speed. While the concept is solid, and the initial investment to approach the solutions is significantly less, that train has a lot of momentum and a lot of cars attached to it, which all need to move at the same time. Be prepared for the logistical train wreck that this could create and the damage it could mean to a project and your reputation.

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Google Powermeter and Zigbee Automation

February 11th, 2009 No comments

I have been looking for a solid advancement in Home Automation for a while. Being a network snob, I really can’t get myself to buy into the X10 line of products, which hasn’t seen advancement in years, doesn’t integrate into the rest of my network and just feels like it is old architecture.

Google’s PowerMeter announcement not only brought large news into the home energy and green initiatives around the world, but it also brought life to the otherwise stagnant development into the home automation industry.

I have had one of the first developed Zigbee wireless thermostats in my house since 2006. I picked up the thermostat when a company called Control4 first brought it to market. Although I was never able to buy into the entire Control4 package because of cost, I appreciated the emergence of a company leaning into new technology in home automation.
Displayed proudly in Google’s FAQ section under “Who else is working on the issue of energy information?” is the Zigbee Alliance. I suspect over the next couple months you will start to hear more and more about Zigbee wireless and their involvement in this project.

Google’s announcement to help organize the world’s power consumption is positive leap in energy conservation efforts. It is my hope that the push drives the home automation industry forward into making better, more affordable, and scalable solutions to make my own life easier. Keep an eye on those automation companies that do have a zigbee solution already in place.

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Classnotes: Twitter

February 9th, 2009 No comments

A couple of weeks ago I held a basic class in Twitter at work. My main objective was to breakdown the misconceptions that Twitter is only a social outlet. Twitter has really grown out of a medium locked into social networking.

Twitter Notes

It is true that Twitter is still a broadcasting service that you can use to promote yourself or your business. Today however Twitter is also a Mobile Communication tool that can be used to coordinate groups or teams. With every news media established on Twitter, is also becoming the place to keep current on news or information specific to any interested. On January 15th, Twitter marked itself as a news source, as the first information the world heard about a plane going down in the Hudson river, was not from CNN, or MSNBC, it was in the twitter universe.

You don’t need to setup a twitter account to let everybody know what you are doing, but everybody will want a twitter account to see what is happening.

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Wag the Dog with Intranet News

February 6th, 2009 No comments

Most employees see the news on their corporate intranet as a great way to learn about the new lunch menu or find out that Sally in accounting is celebrating 20 years of service. What many companies don’t realize is that it is one of the most powerful weapons available to combat change. For anybody who has attempted to make any change in an organization, you welcome all of the tools you can get.

Approaching a project from a change management perspective, the news posted on an intranet is typically used to raise awareness of upcoming project. The more awareness we have, the better the adoption rate of the project, which in turn decreases the time of deployment itself. A well placed article on the news however can also become the driver for change.

For the past few years I have been running experiments, outside of the normal approach of change management and really using the news to manipulate and persuade decisions through what can only be described as an internal media campaign. I only told 3 or 4 people about these theories, which I called the “Wag the Dog” effect, after the appropriate 1997 movie starring Dustin Hoffman.

The results received from these tests were nothing short of scary, which makes me wonder how much of that Wag the Dog movie really happens in our media. For the most part, I have only approached changes that were to benefit my own satisfaction. While better coffee service in the cafeteria and having holiday food sharing initiatives seem rather moog, they made life a little easier for everybody, including myself who really needs that good cup of coffee in the morning.

In 2006, I ran a small media campaign to improve the quality of seating, after it was identified that we were going to get some of our failing chairs replaced under warranty. Through some blanket awareness campaigns, well placed surveys and quick reactions to feedback, I was able to unlock a budget that did not exist, and gained approval for really nice Herman Miller Mirra chairs for the entire office. A month before that campaign, it wasn’t even an option to get new chairs.Mirra Chairs

This past week the president came up and asked what was going on with the news, which I have been slipping on updating over the past few months. While my ass is comfortable and the coffee is good, I haven’t been keeping up with the normal drudgery that people also want to hear about. That drudgery however is the same information that keeps people moving. While reporting that the service department found a more efficient way to service equipment while hanging upside down is not important to me, it is to the rest of the few thousand employees here.

In many regards deciding the content of the company news may seem like a task you want to hand over to the receptionist or the secretary down the hall. Realize that there is more influenced by that company news, and that if properly implemented it can become the driver for change and alignment for more than just your morning cup of coffee.

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Self Bio written

February 4th, 2009 No comments

I had to write up my Automotive centric bio today for One Lap. Very weird experience, but it did make me at least start the one for this site. Here is what the official automotive bio looks like.

Stephen in Racesuit

Born the son of a mechanic, Stephen Burke grew up in East Rochester, NY moving in and out of auto shops instead of daycare. When it came to turning wrenches for a living, it was clear that James Burke intended his son to choose a different a profession outside of turning wrenches. Stephen’s father brought home a computer for the family, on the Kodak employee program, and this is where Stephen found his calling.

Today at age 33, Stephen is the supervisor for Information Technologies for a global manufacturing company based in Rochester, NY. While technology may have become Stephen’s main passion, it is in the garage where Stephen still finds peace.

In 1997 Stephen returned to Rochester after living in KY, and established the Rochester DSM auto club, which is still active today. The first DSM he owned was a 1996 Eclipse GS-T, until he found his first Galant VR4. He would eventually own 4 of these limited edition machines, selling the Eclipse and falling in love with the four door platform. The limited edition car numbered 187/1000 was the focus vehicle, running laps at Watkins Glen and running around Rochester as a four door street sleeper.

In 2008, Stephen bought a Mitsubishi Evolution X, which has taken the parking spot of the overhauled Galant VR4. For Stephen there is no better commemoration for the Galant VR4 than to run it in One Lap of America with three fellow friends and enthusiasts.

Stephen currently lives in Penfield NY with his wife Julie, where he is planning to build a new barn to outfit his complete set of Mitsubishi specialty tools. When he is not in the garage, Stephen is on the water, where he the member of a local club focused on competition water skiing.

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One Lap Announcements

February 2nd, 2009 2 comments

I am very excited to be running in the One Lap of America this year with two great friends. The announcement went out this weekend to the various groups, and we are now feeling the echo of how many people we reach when talking on the Internet.

Official Notice of our Entry

Galant VR4 187/1000
It is evident that we will have reached a couple hundred thousand people, from wall posts, Facebook groups, forum notices, and twitter accounts alone. That is good news for us, as the first thing we really need is a big money sponsor to help us pay for the trip. Outside of the basic entry fees, we need to have additional insurance, full race suits, SA approved helmets, tires specifically ordered for the event before we even talk about gas and hotel stays.

The trip itself should be nothing short of Epic for me. As every child did my age, I grew up with the 6 foot long poster of the Lamborghini above my bed, after memorizing the Cannonball run films.

More than anything, I am excited to be able to go on this event with the technology we have today. I am going to work hard to stream video along the trip, and have people tuning into our efforts along the way. Never before have we been able to support such technology, and it is truly amazing.

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