LinkedIn Shutting Down Network RSS Feed On December 19, 2013 To My Dismay

By Mike Maddaloni on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 09:56 PM with 5 comments

For as many great major and incremental changes LinkedIn has made the business social networking service, they have eliminated a few services which I found resource rich and grew dependent on. One was LinkedIn Answers, a robust business question and answer section of the service which was shut down and disappeared earlier this year. Add to the list the RSS feed of network updates, which a few days ago I was informed it is going away as of the end of this week on December 19.

The following is an image of the email message I received from LinkedIn.

screenshot of LinkedIn Network RSS feed email

The following is the text of the email message I received from LinkedIn.

Dear Mike,

At LinkedIn, we strive to provide a simple and efficient experience for members so we continually evaluate how our current products and features are being used.

This sometimes means we remove a feature so we can focus our resources on building the best products.

We'll be retiring the LinkedIn Network RSS Feed on Dec. 19th. All of your LinkedIn updates and content can still be viewed on LinkedIn, or through the LinkedIn mobile app.

Please visit the Help Center for more information about the LinkedIn Network RSS Feed retirement.

Thank you,
LinkedIn

For some time now I have been subscribed to the RSS feed of my network updates. If you use LinkedIn, this is the information on its home page, which shows updates to your connection’s profiles as well as articles they have shared, groups they have joined, if they have a new connection, etc. This would allow me to see each and every update in my growing network, which was valuable to see where people were moving and information they were sharing. It was also much easier to read, as I could scan the headlines of these changes and posts, and click on anything I wanted more information on.

In other words, the network RSS feed was simple and efficient. But wait, isn’t that the same reason why LinkedIn gave for killing it?

If you couldn’t guess I love RSS!

It goes without saying that I love RSS as it is the primary way I keep informed. RSS is not just for blogs, as I get it for news, weather, sports, events, and networking information. Of course the networking information will decrease as a result of LinkedIn eliminating the network RSS feed.

Using my RSS reader of choice, Fever, I am able to aggregate all of the above information and then some. In the case of LinkedIn, I feel because of the RSS feed I am visiting their site more often, and in the process viewing the banner ads they are selling, not to mention good old-fashioned networking. Did I mention I am viewing the banner ads more often as a result of RSS?

Business decisions for business networking

My guess is I am one of a small minority of people who actually subscribe to the RSS feed, and as a result they are simply turning off the functionality. LinkedIn promoted the RSS feed, complete with the orange RSS icon, at the top of the network updates list. I can’t remember the last time I have seen this. As I have seen little uproar from others about the cancelling of this service, maybe that minority is, as I’d say in Boston, wicked small?

In addition, by controlling the display of network updates, they have the ability to offer more information and services, such as sponsored updates. I have noticed these on the site but not in my RSS feed. Of course to add these to the feed would cost money and resources, and from their message, this is something the new-publicly traded business does not want to do.

RSS is still not dead, #VIVARSS

In the end, after the dust settles from the nuclear winters, it will be just the cockroaches and RSS. Why? Well, as for RSS, it is open and distributed, does not rely on a continuous network connection to work, and is very simple to read and process. After Google killed its Reader RSS aggregator, many wondered if RSS was dead technology. Where it may not be the shiny new object on the Internet that it was, it is a core service that can easily be adopted and utilized, and that in itself makes it valuable.

Did the LinkedIn Network RSS feed shutdown impact you? Did you even know it existed? Share your thoughts in the comments of this post.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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Follow-up On Divvy Bikes And Helmets – Boston Debuts Helmet Vending Machine

By Mike Maddaloni on Wednesday, November 20, 2013 at 10:01 PM with 2 comments

About a month ago I wrote here on The Hot Iron about how Divvy, the extremely popular bike sharing program in Chicago, did not offer helmets. I also discussed several options for them to offer helmets to their riding customers, including people selling them to the idea of a helmet vending machine.

Little did I know such a helmet vending machine had been developed, and last week was introduced in Boston for its bike sharing program. HelmetHub is a vending machine which was born out of MIT, and offers to either sell or rent a helmet. The vending machines have a style similar to the bike rental stations in Boston and Chicago (which are run by the same company) and will fit in well with those stations.

You can read more about HelmetHub on their Web site and see pictures and options for the vending machines.

screenshot of HelmetHub Web site

It’s great to see such a service offered, and nice to know I was not the only one thinking along this line.

Would you buy a helmet from a vending machine? I welcome your thoughts in the comments of this post.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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How I Took An Idea And Made It A Reality

By Mike Maddaloni on Sunday, November 17, 2013 at 10:46 PM with 0 comments

image of The State of Their Web SiteWith all the ideas and events swirling through the Windy City during the recent Chicago Ideas Week, one of those thoughts was what I would like to share here, how I took an idea I had and made it a reality. Though this story took place a few years back, it is still very vivid in my mind.

My idea was to create a piece of marketing collateral for my Web consulting business. In this case, I could leave it would a prospect client, allow it to be downloaded from the Web and simply put it out there in printed format, the last 2 cases would be for anyone who wanted it. Depending on where the prospect was, it could server anywhere from a calling card, functional tool or a call to action to contact me.

Origin of the Idea

In my Web consulting business there were 2 categories for prospects – those who did not have a Web site and those who had one and were looking to possibly redesign and/or rebuild it. Where there were many common elements between the 2 for the sales process, when talking with someone who already had a Web site there was always a level of ambiguity to what exactly they needed or wanted to do and to what extent.

To try to streamline this process in a non-intimidating way, I thought of a form of checklist, where someone could read off the list to see if they had any or all of the items incorporated into their Web site, or at least to pose the questions in the event they didn’t know. In my mind’s eye I had a partial vision of the checklist. I saw it as paper-based, as likely someone would read a question from it then look on their Web site on their computer’s monitor for the answer. I wasn’t sure if there should be a score of some form or not. I was very sure I did not want it to be too technical and I did want it targeted to the business owner.

As for what would be in the checklist I had some ideas, but this was something I wanted to put time into over a period of time, then organize them into the checklist.

Like Rodney Dangerfield’s Joke Bag

The process of collecting the items for the checklist had me recalling a story I once heard about the late-great comedian Rodney Dangerfield. Before he got into comedy, he was a salesman and would write jokes on pieces of paper and put them into a duffle bag. When the bag was full, he had the material he would use on stage.

My approach was similar, yet different, as my duffle bag was digital – consisting of folders on my hard drive and in my email program. The ideas I captured varied from text files to links to other Web sites to email newsletters, where some of these items were direct ideas and others either categories or thoughts. I let this collection come together over a period time (exactly how long I do not remember). Then one day I decided to start the process to build the checklist.

Molding the Ideas into the Finished Product

As the collection process had elapsed some time and I didn’t remember everything I had put together, I decided I would go through them, one-by-one and begin curating a list. This was facilitated with the help of my whiteboard. As I read an item, I checked if it I already had it on the board, and if not I added it in some semblance of order. When all was done, this is what my whiteboard looked like:

photo of the whiteboard creative process

At first glance, it is a mess. But it was the first pass at the organization of the items and ideas. Needless to say it was worthy of a picture!

From here, I started typing up the ideas, and in some cases I would combine like or similar ones. As I typed them up, I erased them from the whiteboard. At the end of this process hundreds of files and emails were in a clean list, just as clean as the whiteboard now was.

The next step was to boil the list down to a manageable, 1-page list, with the top, most important items on it. This was done over several days, as I would look at the list for a while, then revisit it later with a fresh brain. In the end, I finalized a list of 34 items and broke them down into 3 categories – business, content and design. I also came up with some copy to describe the checklist to put on the reverse side of it. At this point I felt really good about the checklist. Well, except for the name of it.

(Queen’s) Landing on the Right Name

photo of Queen’s Landing

The original name I had for the check was, and get ready for it:

The Web Site Redesign Self-Assessment Checklist

Yes, it sucked. Here I spent all of this time and produced what I felt was a quality product, yet the name would surely be a turn-off, and in some cases scare off people. I decided to put the completed checklist aside as I needed some more quality time to get the name right.

On a Friday evening after work, I went for a walk along Lake Michigan. Armed with a good cigar, I just needed to clear my head after a busy week and stretch my legs. As I was strolling by Belmont Harbor, the topic of the checklist name came front in center in my head. I recall shaking said head and saying to myself, “why don’t I have a better title for this” and the gears in my head started to crank.

As I headed south along the lakefront path, I started decomposing the goal of the checklist. The thought process went something like, “it’s where your Web site is now… it’s a point in time… it’s the current state your Web site is in… wait, that’s it – it’s the State of your Web Site!”

I stopped where I was, at a place along the lake called Queen’s Landing and called my office line and left myself a voicemail message on the name so I wouldn’t forget my inspiration. When I got back from my walk I edited the Word document with the name and then registered the domain name for it.

The State of the State Then and Now

Upon completing the checklist I setup a download page for it and promoted it here on The Hot Iron and elsewhere. I printed copies of it to give people in person and to bring to events as a leave-behind. Although the list never was mentioned on the cover of the Wall Street Journal, it would get a handful of downloads each week and I got good feedback on it from prospect clients and current clients as well.

Now almost 3 years after I created the checklist, it needs to be updated a bit, which would come probably after a new brainstorming session on it. That being said, there are many core concepts on the checklist that are still very relevant today as-is.

See for yourself – download a copy of The State of Your Web Site here right now!

Ideas, Visited

Ideas are just that, intangible thoughts. Without any action, they will remain in that state, floating out there. I know, as The Hot Iron is full of ideas I have had over the years. Where I have acted on many of ideas over the years, I am very proud of the creative process I have just shared here.

Your thoughts – and ideas – on the checklist and the process which led to it are welcome in the comments.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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Nokia Lumia 925 Unboxing and First Impressions

By Mike Maddaloni on Tuesday, October 29, 2013 at 09:12 PM with 0 comments

It’s been a while since I have evaluated a mobile device. As a matter of fact, it has been just over 2 years since I had a loaner Nokia E6 from Nokia Connects. My, how times have changed! Today Nokia’s mobile division is all about Windows Phone, and not to forget soon will be part of Microsoft. So I felt it was time to reconnect with the Nokia crew and they have lent me a Nokia Lumia 925 to evaluate.

View the unboxing of the Nokia Lumia 925 below or on YouTube directly.

As you may have noticed, I am new to the Windows Phone ecosystem, and what is the first thing I do? I deleted an icon! Hopefully my experience will get better as I learn my way around the device over the next couple of weeks, especially using the Carl Zeiss lens on the PureView camera.

Let me know if there’s anything in particular you would like me to try on the 925, as well as any other thoughts on it, and you can add them to the comments to this post.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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Goodbye To The Locals Park In Chicago

By Mike Maddaloni on Friday, December 28, 2012 at 02:00 PM with 1 comments

They say all good things must come to an end. Even if that thing is to be replaced by something else, often is the case the sentiment and meaning of the old thing is never truly brought back. This is how I feel with the recent closing of Daley Bicentennial Plaza in Chicago.

Daley Bicentennial Plaza was created in 1976 on top of a parking garage and named after late mayor Richard J. Daley. It consisted of a park district fieldhouse where classes and events were held, as well as tennis courts, walking paths, picnic areas, an ice rink and a playground. Located at the northeast corner of Grant Park, it paled in comparison to its newer sibling across the street, Millennium Park. And though it was connected to it by the Frank Gehry-designed BP Bridge, Daley Bicentennial Plaza was never overly crowded and not a major tourist attraction in itself. Its simplicity may not have drawn visitors, but it served the residents of the area perfectly.

This is why I always called it the Locals Park.

photo of Daley Bicentennial Plaza Playlot sign

It was reported there was major water leaking from the park into the parking garage below it. The only way to repair the leak is to put a new membrane on top of the garage. In order to do this, the entire park has to be removed, destroying hundreds of trees and removing everything on top of it. What stood for over 35 years was to be obliterated. This I actually understood as a similar project occurred in Boston in the 1990’s when the parking garage under the Boston Common was leaking, however in this case only grass was removed as that was all that was on top of the garage.

Once the roof of the garage is repaired, a new park will be rebuilt on top of it. It will be named Maggie Daley Park after the late wife of former mayor Richard M. Daley, and the daughter-in-law of the previous namesake. From pictures and plans I have seen, it will be a beautiful park, complete with a rock-climbing area, new playgrounds, ponds and a skating ribbon. The new park is scheduled to open in about 2 years.

Short-Term Loss

photo of Daley Bicentennial Plaza playground

While the work is being done to repair the garage roof, there will be a major loss to the residents of the community, especially for those with kids. The playground – or playlot as it was called – was the center piece of the park for myself and my family, as well as many families that live downtown in the Loop. Surrounded by plenty of tall shade trees and with great views of the city skyline, it was an ideal location with a great set of equipment for kids to play and explore and get tired out on. Several times a week my kids would be climbing around and running on the rubberized surface, whether it was hot and sunny or cold and snowy out. When you live in a high-rise and you simply can’t open your backdoor to let the kids run around in the backyard, this was their backyard.

As my wife and I are raising “city kids” they have grown up on this playground and park, and we have the pictures to prove it! From infancy to today over the almost last 5 years we have images and video of our kids literally growing up in the park. Our oldest daughter’s first “friends” birthday party was held in the fieldhouse, and she used to attend play programs there until she started in school. The first time our oldest was on ice skates was on the rink in the park, which was nearly empty as compared to the rink over at Millennium Park. Seeing the kids at various ages using the same equipment in these pictures will always bring back fond memories for us. And not to forget times we spent in the park before the kids were born, whether it was walking in the untouched new-fallen snow or watching fireworks or just getting away from the sounds of the city. When the park was about to close my wife and I pondered the idea of taking “last” pictures of the park, but I decided not to, as we already have hundreds if not thousands of pictures of it already.

Moving Forward

Clearing the old park has already begun. As seen in the photo below, on the left is what this pathway from Randolph Street into the park from the west used to look like, and on the right is what it looked like about a few weeks ago.

photo of before and after ar Daley Bicentennial Plaza

I was also amazed at how trees were being removed. The video below shows a tree being removed by a piece of heavy machinery which first grabs the tree, then cuts it close to the stump. From there, the stumps are ground up and the tree is gone. If you can’t see the video below you can view the video at YouTube.

Though this video is a sad image, it will be the furthest from my mind when I reflect back on the time I and my family spent in Daley Bicentennial Plaza over the past years. Of course the replacement will be a great addition to the city, but it just won’t be the same, and even though the new park will be progress for the city, fond memories of what once was will always remain. The new park will be a great park, but I am not sure if it will be a Locals Park after all.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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Quick Poll - Do You Encrypt Your Computer Or Mobile Device?

By Mike Maddaloni on Monday, March 05, 2012 at 04:00 AM with 2 comments

You are invited to participate in the following quick poll - do you encrypt your computer or mobile device?

Please make your selection below - if you cannot see the poll question please answer the poll here.

Why am I asking this question? I will follow up with my reason plus the results in a week or so, depending on the volume of responses. Thanks for participating, and please pass along to friends and colleagues. Also, feel free to add any additional thoughts in the comments of this post.


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This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni, Founder and President of Web consulting firm Dunkirk Systems, LLC.


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SpinVox Through uReach A Suitable Replacement For Ribbit Mobile

By Mike Maddaloni on Thursday, March 01, 2012 at 09:59 AM with 5 comments

The blue skies and green pastures of Ribbit Mobile are no longer, but if you can’t live without mobile voicemail to text, you can get it from SpinVox through uReach.

screenshot of Ribbit Mobile home page in grayscale

(Note the above image of the Ribbit Mobile home page was changed to grayscale by me)

Ribbit Mobile was a service for translating voicemail messages to text and delivering that text message with an audio file of the voicemail message, and those messages would be delivered by email and SMS. For myself, I have used similar services for over 4 years, and having the luxury of reading the text of a voicemail when you don’t have the opportunity to dial in to listen (e.g. when you’re in a meeting), not to mention the ready-access archive of messages, was priceless.

And that was just the case with Ribbit Mobile – they were not charging for “beta” this service for the 2+ years I used it. Near the end of last year I recall getting a survey from them on how much I would be willing to pay for the service. Then in January of this year I got an email saying Ribbit Mobile would be shutting down altogether the end of January, and there was no alternative. Ribbit itself as a company would still be around as they offer other services, like an Android app for voicemail and an add-on to Salesforce.com. The service was still running for a couple of weeks after the announced date, and went down altogether on February 16.

As I said, this was a type of service you could get used to. I also have a similar voicemail to text service through Vonage which I use for my business phone. Prior to Ribbit Mobile I was part of the SpinVox consumer beta program which I talked about previously here at The Hot Iron. Interestingly, around the time SpinVox announced they were dropping their B to C service (they power Vonage’s voicemail to text) Ribbit Mobile came on the scene, and I was able to switch over with very little time without this type of service.

In between SpinVox and Ribbit Mobile I briefly used SpinVox through uReach, a company offering virtual voice, email and office solutions used by many small businesses. When Ribbit Mobile went away, I looked into see if it was still offered, and it took a call to uReach to find the “hidden” URL for the service (they offer it, but it’s not linked from their main Web site), and by visiting ureach.com/spinvox one can sign up for the voicemail to text service for $9.99/month plus usage fees for large volumes of voicemail. The uReach offering is not as robust as Ribbit’s, and for some reason breaks up voicemails when sent by SMS into several messages of 30 second lengths. But you can still get an email with the message text and audio file attached.

Am I the only one who will miss Ribbit Mobile? Am I the only one who uses voicemail to text? Please let me know in this post’s comments, as I know nobody else personally who uses, and loves, this type of service.


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This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni, Founder and President of Web consulting firm Dunkirk Systems, LLC.


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Google Reader Wants Your Favicon To Brand Your Blog

By Mike Maddaloni on Monday, December 19, 2011 at 07:04 AM with 0 comments

As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. But can something that is barely a quarter of an inch square make the difference in whether people read the words of your blog?

Among the recent changes to the user interfaces and experience of Google applications over the past few weeks, favicons are now showing up next to the titles of blogs in their feed reader, Google Reader. Favicons, as I have talked about here on The Hot Iron before, are a 16 pixel square icon that is displayed in the address bar and bookmarks of most all PC/Mac and mobile Web browsers. Their real value is when scanning bookmarks or scrolling thru the history in the address bar as they provide visual cues to which site is which, providing enhanced differentiation from plain text Web URLs. For years I have always added favicons to sites I build in my Web consulting business and I continue to evangelized about them.

Google Reader blog list screen shotWith the addition of the favicon to Google Reader, not only a reader can leverage this visual cue convenience, but brands of all form – personal and business – can gain by adding a visual where previously there has been just text in the list of blogs available to be read. Pictured here is a screen shot of my own Google Reader, where you can see a selection of blogs I read, along with their favicons. For most of these, the favicon extends their branding very well, such as with this blog and Active Travels, which is a client. One example here that does not leverage any branding is ChicagoBusiness.com from Crain’s. Where the Web site itself has a favicon, the RSS feed, which is aggregated with others in Google Reader, does not. I cannot say why specifically, but it must be related to how its Web server and RSS feed is configured. I did nothing unique or specific to add the favicon to The Hot Iron's RSS feed.

Another observation I made is that some blog feeds had the “default” favicon for the Web server or Web hosting provider. Many blogs – and I will spare them embarrassment buy not mentioning them by name – have a 3 by 3 grid of squares, which is the favicon for Web host BlueHost. If you don’t change the default favicon that is in a root folder on the Web server, then whatever is there will be “discovered” and used.

Favicons are a small but mighty file that can go miles to extend your brand. Does your Web site have a favicon? Let myself and other readers know by commenting on this post, as well as any questions you may have on favicons.


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This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni, Founder and President of Web consulting firm Dunkirk Systems, LLC.


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Nokia E6 Unboxing And Thoughts

By Mike Maddaloni on Friday, October 28, 2011 at 04:00 AM with 0 comments

Granted, the talk this week has been on the announcements coming from London at Nokia World about new Windows Mobile devices as well as new devices specifically designed towards emerging markets. However, a few months back I had the opportunity to evaluate a Nokia E6,which is still alive and well and selling in the US and other countries.

Thanks to the folks at Nokia Connects (formerly WOMWorld/Nokia) I was able to use this device for a few weeks. But first I had to open the package, and here’s my initial reaction to the E6 – view the embedded video below or watch the Nokia E6 unboxing video on YouTube.

It wasn’t until I watched the video that I realized the heavy comparisons I made between the E6 and the Nokia E72, which is my primary mobile device, or my “workhorse” as I like to call it. This was due to the form factor, which are very similar. Besides that and the quality of the construction, these devices are different. On the hardware front, it has a touchscreen, something I miss from my days as a Palm user. The camera is a mixed blessing – taking 8 megapixel photos but with a full-focus rather than auto-focus camera. With some of the tests I did – mostly of my kids so I won’t post them here – the full focus worked great when they sat still (rarely) and was a disappointment when they were moving or I wanted to get a close-up shot (usually the case).

In my evaluation period I did not completely switch to using it, namely a time issue for me. But I did carry the 2 devices with me at the same time and tried similar tasks and did put my SIM card in it and used it for calls. I was pleased with its usability and liked the Symbian^3 features that I am still getting used to. The main reason I still use the E72 – the physical keyboard – is also a selling point for the E6. Granted I could probably get used to an on-screen keyboard eventually, but for how I use a device, it’s nice to have the physical keys to bang on.

Where the E6 will fit into the mix of Nokia’s devices is unclear, but I guess its price may drop, which will put a touchscreen, full keyboard mobile device in the hands of many people easily, and no need to go thru a Blackberry service as you can directly connect to POP and Exchange mail!

Below is an embedded slideshow of photos I took of both the E6 and E72 – view it there or on Flickr.

The device has long been returned to Nokia Connects, but I welcome your thoughts and questions on it in the comments.


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This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni, Founder and President of Web consulting firm Dunkirk Systems, LLC.


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Dell Latitude E6320 Unboxing and Initial Thoughts

By Mike Maddaloni on Tuesday, October 18, 2011 at 04:00 AM with 3 comments

As someone who has used Dell PCs over the years and not too long ago evaluated a Dell Vostro 130 - I was thrilled when Dell, through the Zocalo Group, offered a new Dell notebook as a gift. As with any piece of electronics I receive – as a gift or for evaluation – I make an unboxing video, and you can watch the unboxing of this Dell Latitude E6320 below or on YouTube.

As you can see, I initially was told I was getting a Dell Latitude E5420, and instead it was an E6320 – I still need to pour thru the configuration, but from my initial review of the models on Dell’s Web site they are similar.

Since I made the video, here’s a couple of thoughts and items to note. I found how to turn on backlighting the keyboard, and it is a nice feature, especially when working late at night at home (note that working late at night at home in itself is not a nice feature!). It also does not run hot similar to the Dell Vostro 1410 I am using now, and will be replaced by this Latitude E6320. I have also liked using Windows 7, and it will be a nice transition from Windows XP.

The plan is to now setup the E6320 with all my software, files and any special settings and use it as the primary work PC. I had one setback in doing so from a time perspective when I mistakenly installed the hard drive encryption software and had to reinstall Windows 7 and the drivers. As the DVDs were included, this was not as painful of a process as it could have been, but it took time to do so, and I am just now getting to really using this hardware.

Over time I will share my thoughts on this Dell Latitude E6320, and you can find them here at The Hot Iron as well on Twitter – follow @thehotiron and @dunkirk. Special thanks to the Zocalo Group for offering me this machine. And as generous as they and Dell have been, it will certainly not cloud my judgment of my reviews and thoughts on this PC! As always, I welcome your thoughts and questions on it in the comments of this post.


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This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni, Founder and President of Web consulting firm Dunkirk Systems, LLC.


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