Vendor lock-in

Dave Winer has been blogging about vendor lock-in for quite a while now. It occurred to me earlier as I was reading about a really cool project and realizing that this project would never be possible with commercial applications. Would it be possible to put Microsoft Content Management on a flash drive even if the license permitted it? How else could one have a flash-drive based cross-platform web-enabled application?

When companies and organizations take the stand that open-source is not for them it is often a short-sighted view. Certainly there are organizations that can't deal with open source themselves but there is no upside from skipping the numerous vendors working with open-source and there is almost certainly long term risk. What does a business do when their system is no longer supported and their data is locked-in to a particular vendor's system? Just ask some organizations that are just now trying to migrate from mainframe systems to database systems and the years of work and millions of dollars it takes to make the move.

Sure I know Dreamweaver, Front Page and more

As a hiring manager I'm always skeptical when I get a resume filled with "technical" classes from one of the myriad of technical schools around the country. When I've worked with graduates of these programs it seems they have a marginal, but usually satisfactory, understanding of how technology is supposed to work. The problem is I rarely need people who can work with technology that is working. If technology is working and things are simple there is little that end-users need. Even relatively simple tasks like deploying computers depends upon a specific understanding of the complex situation that is most business networks. Few organizations do a "out of the box" installation of a Microsoft Active Directory and run 100% machines that work in that environment. These complexities mean a technical manager is quickly looking for skills that don't come from these technical schools. Ironically because they do tend to come in people who are self-motivated to learn the technology any way they can often the requisite skills are stronger in those who haven't been through this sort of program.

Give away business idea

Here is an idea for a business I would like to use but don't have the time to create. In reading Peter Walsh's book, or listening to the audiobook to be precise, there is a great suggestion. For holiday gifts ship them to the place you'll be and skip the whole schlepping them through the airport or in the car. R.E.I. makes this easy by allowing orders to be picked up at the store. The service I would love to use is one whereby I can send packages ahead to where I'll be for the holidays without complexity. Sure I can send them to a house but there are always issues around that. It seems a business with many locations and already large storage space would be perfect. Perhaps even one of the shipping companies could provide this service.

Organizational web-mastering

Every once in a while something happens that just floors me. Often I think I've seen just about every cheap-trick in the book and know all the ways people are a bit odd. A recent exchange showed that I've still got more to learn. The story starts some months back when an organization asked me to work on their website. For a multitude of reasons the group was not happy with the site they had and couldn't get satisfaction from the process they were using.

The non-fixed APR

Credit card companies frequently are coming up with new ways to sucker customers. The beleaguered industry is certainly not without its benefits but the methods used by many companies are outright slimy. Consider the advertisement in the mail from Bank of America. The ad for Zero Balance tells how I can get an unsecured loan of "up to $50,000* at competitive non-variable rates."

There is not even one little footnote symbol next to the "non-variable rates" portion that is highlighted in yellow for would-be borrowers. What does a non-variable rate mean? Is it the fixed rate that many would commonly think it might be? Well, no. While there is no footnote indicator there is an explanation in the fine light gray print on the back it explains:

By "non-variable rates" we mean that the APR will not automatically vary with an index, such as the Prime Rate. We reserve the right to change your APR, fees, or other credit terms at our discretion.

So it turns out that "non-variable" means they aren't tied to a somewhat predictable index, the economy or any of the normal things that most outrageously priced credit cards are tied to. Instead Bank of America can decide, at their discretion, to increase your rate to the maximum the day after you sign up. In fact if you sign up with a 10% maximum APR the next day they can change it (changing the credit terms) to a low 33% APR.

Ignorance is not a defense

Throughout my decades of being a student of public education I have been taught that ignorance of the law is not a defense. It seems even some attorneys don't get it. Though I am not a legal scholar or expert in any way the logic of Russo & Hale's motion in a case against a former client is simply baffling. Perhaps the firm should change it's name to Bottom & Quince. Though it is hard to imagine even Shakespeare's most comical players playing this skit.

This drubbing of a customer makes me think of an experience we had a few days ago. We went to a nice, expensive restaurant for dinner. It was not as good as it had been about a year ago when we were last there but it was still good and fun. The trouble started for us when we ordered desert, the chocolate course. We each asked for coffee and placed the order. And we waited. And waited. And continued to wait. Finally a manager shows up, slings the chocolate on the table, drops off the fruit plates and says "is there anything else you need". We asked for the coffees we had ordered. It is then that the manager tells us that our server got a big table. At this point I'm thinking "here's a manager that doesn't get customer service".


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