The Hot Iron

A journal on business, technology and occasional diversions by Mike Maddaloni

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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Dell Latitude E6320 Unboxing and Initial Thoughts

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.



Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 10/18/11 at 04:00 AM
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Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Mike Maddaloni Interviewed On Open Source for Web Central Station

 Web Central Station logoRecently I was interviewed by CT Moore for the Web site Web Central Station on the topic of open source development and interoperability. As I have worked with both open source and commercial software and development tools over my career, I welcomed the opportunity to share my perspective with their readers.

You can read the article here on the Web Central Station Web site, which is a Canadian Web site sponsored by Microsoft. In short, as I have always said to my consulting clients at Dunkirk Systems, LLC, it is about the right tools or technology for the project.

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree with me? I welcome your comments, either here on The Hot Iron or at Web Central Station.


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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.



Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 08/03/11 at 10:27 AM
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Thursday, April 07, 2011

QR Code Buried On Outdoor Signage

QR codes are not afraid of heights. Despite this, they still tend to be placed in obscure places, and in this place, mere inches from the ground.

The following sign was up for the month of September last year in Chicago’s Millennium Park.

photo of QR code on event sign in Millennium Park, Chicago

From a distance, you can barely see the QR code at the bottom right of the sign. I saw it, but I digress. Here’s a closer shot of the sign.

photo of QR code on detailed event sign in Millennium Park, Chicago

I was able to get a closer shot, but I had to squat down to take the picture.

photo of QR code detail on event sign in Millennium Park, Chicago

The code did work at the time, but it brings up an error, now several months later.

Where it’s always nice to see a QR code in action, why implement one so poorly? The position so low to the ground makes it less likely to see, let alone scan. If you do scan it, you’d have to squat down or have to bend over in an awkward position. The description accompanying the code could be made much clearer and concise. I also encountered issues scanning the code as the protective clear plastic over the poster caused a reflection and didn’t allow me to quickly scan the code.

How could this have been improved? By simply moving it from the bottom right to the top right would have helped adoption. This would have positioned it at just above waist level, that is for someone like myself just under 6 feet. Making the accompanying text clearer may have helped as well, or simply having it say, “scan here or visit explorechicago.org” would have been all that was needed.

So, would you have even bothered to have scanned a code in such a location? Share that or any other 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.



Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 04/07/11 at 03:05 PM
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Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Nokia E7 Unboxing Video And Initial Observations

Thanks to the folks at WOMWorld/Nokia I have received a brand new Nokia E7 mobile device to evaluate. I made the following video of the opening of the package and unboxing the device. It is embedded below, or follow this link and view it on YouTube.

As you can see (if you watched it) WOMWorld/Nokia outdid themselves again and created a custom outer wrapper for the device with a tweet I sent and signed by Nokia’s new CEO Stephen Elop.

The E7 is a solid device – made of metal, and feels solid when you hold it. This isn’t the first time I held an E7, as I got to try a pre-release model owned by Nokia staff when I went to Microsoft TechEd last fall in Berlin, but this is the first time I got to try it out myself. As a result, I gave the slide-up of the display to expose the keyboard a good workout, for as I said in the video, I work a device to its fullest extent!

Off To The Races But With Caution

Now that I have unboxed the E7, I will charge it, put in my T-Mobile SIM card, sync the device with my contacts and calendar and use it as my primary device. I am interested in getting to know the Symbian^3 operating system, use the camera and make my own observations on it, take advantage of the full keyboard and just plain see how it works for me.

That being said, as I was charging it and I was getting a feel for device, I made an observation I hadn’t heard before – there are no holes in the device to attach a wrist strap! I say this with an exclamation, as every Nokia device I have used over the years – going back to the Nokia 105 I had in the early 90’s - had them. Though I don’t have a wrist strap on my Nokia E72, I see the need for one on the E7 namely due to how I see using the camera. As it has a full touch screen and with the positioning of the shutter button, I would want the strap for both positioning the camera and ensuring I don’t drop the device! As the E7 has a flip screen, I can’t see how a case could be wrapped around it which would have wrist strap holes.

Look for more to come on the E7. Is there something you would like me to try out on the device? Share your ideas and thoughts in the comments for this post.


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Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 04/05/11 at 10:09 AM
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Monday, March 14, 2011

Dunkirk Powers Valcour Strategic Group Web Site With MojoMotor

We at my Web consulting firm Dunkirk Systems, LLC are proud to announce the re-launch of a Web site that barely looks different than before, but has a completely new infrastructure behind the scenes.

Valcour Strategic Group, LLC is a long-time Dunkirk client and we have collaborated on mutual client projects in the past. Valcour is a Strategic Growth Focused Consulting Services Firm committed to developing and launching New Technology Products that benefit the Water, Food, and Beverage Processing Markets in North America. Their Web site at www.valcourstrategic.com has been live for several years, and has been a static Web site, meaning any changes to the content of the site were a technical task to change hard-coded Web pages. This posed issues with making even the smallest of changes as soon as they were needed. Valcour needed greater content management capabilities with their Web site, but their needs were straight-forward and didn’t need a robust CMS, at least not yet.

screen of Valcour Strategic Group, LLC Web site

After making many changes to their Web site and understanding their needs, I felt a new CMS called MojoMotor would solve their needs, and it is now live powering their Web site. MojoMotor was released last fall by EllisLab, who also offer ExpressionEngine, Dunkirk’s preferred CMS upon which we have built many client Web sites, blogs and forums. MojoMotor positions itself as “the publishing engine that does less,” and the question was if less was more for Valcour. After reviewing the technology with Norman LaVigne, Valcour’s founder and president, he gave the ok for the project.

So how has MojoMotor worked for Valcour? In hs own words, Norman said, “I have made numerous text updates since going live with MojoMotor. I like the ease of doing this so I can tweak something on the site quickly and keep it aligned with my business without having to accumulate changes and do them all at once later.”

Dunkirk is now offering MojoMotor as part of our CMS offering. There are many times when a robust CMS is needed, and in some cases it is not. A great feature of MojoMotor is a built-in upgrade path to ExpressionEngine. Where a Web site may start out with basic needs, when those are exceeded, there is a path to expansion, and greatness!


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Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 03/14/11 at 04:00 AM
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Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Microsoft Playfully Asks You To Stop Using Internet Explorer 6 Web Browser

Microsoft recently launched a program for “moving the world off Internet Explorer 6” called the Internet Explorer 6 Countdown, aptly at IE6Countdown.com. For some of you reading this, hearing about this may be somewhat amusing, for others, you may not know why Microsoft would want this to happen. I will try to address the reasons for upgrading your browser here, and why many – including myself – want IE6 to go away!

screen of IE6Countdown.com

A Lot Has Happened In A Decade

IE6 was launched on August 27, 2001. A lot has happened in the area Web technology since then. Web programming standards have changed, with an emphasis towards heavy use of cascading style sheets (CSS) to position content on a Web page, when previously HTML tables were used. This has made Web code “lighter” in it’s physical file size, as well as ease of maintenance. As IE6 itself has not changed, many newer Web pages may display differently, or not display at all. This forces Web designers and developers to add functionality and code to display specific code on IE6 that is different than on other browsers, which only adds to future maintenance.

As well, other browsers have entered the marketplace, including Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome and Opera. These browsers have been designed to render newer Web standards properly, though each has its own nuances. Not to mention newer features to the browsers, such as tabbed browsing and subscribing to RSS feeds. One feature of these other browsers is in their ability to “self-update” and apply incremental changes to the browser software, and prompt the user to download completely new versions of the browser. IE6 does not do this. Windows Update will prompt a PC user to install a new browser version or incremental browser update, but the user can opt not to install them. In some cases, a user may not even have the option – these tend to be corporate users, who centrally control what updates are made on a corporate computer.

Another reason why corporate users may not use the latest browsers is due to some corporate Web applications requiring IE6 to run. Many of these apps may not have a business need to change, thus corporate IT staff have made no efforts to upgrade the browsers. Only newer versions of Windows have come with newer versions of the browser, and hopefully by then these apps have changed for the newer versions.

So Why A Campaign?

Microsoft relied on people to upgrade the browsers themselves, and in many cases the browser never updated or upgraded. Also, IE6 was viewed as slow and unfriendly, which attributed to a migration away from them. People may use IE6 on occasion – for certain Web apps that required it – but would use Firefox or another browser as their primary browser. Thus not only did IE6 lose market share, IE browsers overall lost market share. So why not a marketing campaign to bring attention to the browser already installed on your PC?

Where the idea of a campaign around a countdown to IE6 going away is interesting, it’s just that – clever marketing. If you look at the chart on the IE6 countdown Web site, the country with the largest use if IE6 is China, which raises all sorts of questions around piracy as well as their ability to even get access to the newer browsers.

As someone who build Web sites, I have IE6 installed on a computer I use, and this is namely for testing my Web sites. My primary browser is Firefox 3, and I also use Google Chrome on occasion, both for Web browsing and testing Web sites. I agree the world would be a better place without IE6. Unfortunately I don’t think this campaign will make it go away completely.

I once had an idea about how to rid the world of IE6 – rather than have a marketing campaign, hold a contest for someone to write a virus or malware which would replace a version of IE6 with a newer version of IE. Though ethics heavily come into play, it would certainly be more effective!

What do you think of this campaign? Do you still use IE6? I welcome your thoughts and reasons in the comments of this post.


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Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 03/08/11 at 02:29 PM
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Saturday, March 05, 2011

Empty Storefront And Blank Web Page Only Signs Of New Chicago CityTarget

Last month there was joy in downtown Chicago as Target finally announced it would open a small-format store in the Sullivan Center, the former location of Carson Pirie Scott, called CityTarget. I say finally as the rumors of this move by the Minneapolis-based discount retailer have been around for over a year. As someone who both lives and works in the Loop, this is very welcome news.

Yet over 2 weeks after the announcement, there is no outward sign the store is opening. As you can see in the accompanying photo, there is no sign or bullseye logo at the corner of State and Madison Streets – only an exhibit by the School of the Art Institute is in the window.

photo of Sullivan Center, Chicago

When I heard of the name CityTarget, the first thing that popped into my mind was if Target had the domain name citytarget.com. It does, and wisely registered the name back in 2004. But if you go to www.citytarget.com, there is only a blank Web page. What does the normally boastful retailer have to hide?

Though no official date has been set for CityTarget’s opening, I do hope it’s soon, and I do hope they make some effort to promote it – the long empty windows of this historic building could use a little color.


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Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 03/05/11 at 04:00 AM
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Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Kellogg’s New Crunchy Nut Cereal Uses QR Code To Reinforce Marketing

A visit to the cereal aisle of a US supermarket is always an overwhelming experience, as with each visit it appears that there’s even more choices to make. In this crowded field of breakfast foods, you need to stand out somehow, and why not with a QR code?

A new variety of cereal, Crunchy Nut from Kellogg’s, featured a QR code on the back of its cereal box as shown below:

photo of back of Kellogg’s Crunchy Nut cereal box

Note there was not a QR code on the front of the box, and I discovered this when I went to buy the cereal. The detail of the QR code is shown below:

photo of QR code on back of Kellogg’s Crunchy Nut cereal box

Upon scanning the code, you are taken to a mobile Web optimized site where it shows a video reinforcing its marketing message about eating the cereal day or night because “it’s morning somewhere.” I have visited the site a few times and I observed different videos.

This a good example of a presentation of a QR code as well as what it links to. In a prominent location, the message offers both the option to send an SMS message or to scan the code, and below it tells the cereal eater how they can get a reader app, and if they do so, they may be charged for it. In this case, Kellogg’s chose to call it a 2D bar code, and my guess all of this text was vetted by their legal department and thus it is called as such, as technically QR code is a trademarked name, but offered as an open standard.

Only if the cereal lived up to the quality of the QR code presentation – it was a little bland for my taste, and not that crunchy either, but I digress. The QR code won me over in this case.


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Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 03/02/11 at 07:27 AM
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Tuesday, March 01, 2011

MyBlogLog Shutting Down May 24, 2011 But Will Anyone Notice?

MyBlogLog logoLast week I received an email from Yahoo indicating it will be shutting down the service MyBlogLog on May 24, 2011. For some of you reading this, you may be saying, what the heck is MyBlogLog anyway? Allow me to explain.

MyBlogLog was a social community for blogs. Bloggers joined MyBlogLog and would put code into their theme or template pages to display a widget. If you were a member of MyBlogLog and visited the Web page of another blog who was also a member, your avatar would appear within the widget. This would show that you - and others - visited the blog site. The widget could be adjusted to show a small or large list of avatars, as well as the names of the person and blog behind the avatar. By clicking within the widget you could go to the MyBlogLog page for the blog itself or for the visitors.

MyBlogLog widget from The Hot IronFor myself, MyBlogLog was more of a merit badge for how many different people would visit my blog more than a way to learn about my visitors. I rarely went to the MyBlogLog Web site itself. Overtime, the widget was slowly demoted on the sidebar of The Hot Iron and other blogs which I had signed up for it. Where it was something I would recommend for client blogs, eventually it was not. The accompanying image shows the latest status of the MyBlogLog widget for The Hot Iron as of this writing.

My guess is its popularity waned for others as well. Here’s the text of Yahoo’s email:

Dear MyBlogLog Customer,

You have been identified as a customer of Yahoo! MyBlogLog. We will officially discontinue Yahoo! MyBlogLog effective May 24, 2011. Your agreement with Yahoo!, to the extent that it applies to the Yahoo! MyBlogLog, will terminate on May 24, 2011.

After May 24, 2011 your credit card will no longer be charged for premium services on MyBlogLog. We will refund you the unused portion of your subscription, if any. The refund will appear as a credit via the billing method we have on file for you. To make sure that your billing information is correct and up to date, visit https://billing.yahoo.com.

Questions?

If you have questions about these changes, please visit the Yahoo! MyBlogLog help pages.

We thank you for being a customer on Yahoo! MyBlogLog.

Sincerely,

The Yahoo! My BlogLog Team

When I read this, my first reaction was, “people paid for this?” It was always free when I signed up for it, which pre-dated Yahoo’s acquisition of it. The link to the help pages originally linked to a MyBlogLog page which basically stated what was in the email. As I write this it links to a help page on Featured Listings, which looks like another soon-to-be discontinued service.

My guess is after May 24 the widget will not appear on Web pages, and soon I will remove it from The Hot Iron’s templates. This appears to be yet another change Yahoo is making to slim down its operations, including the shutdown of Geocities and using Microsoft Bing’s search marketing services instead of its own. With MyBlogLog, and the same can be said for Geocities, why didn’t they just spin it off and give this away to someone to let them continue with it? Perhaps they didn’t want to incur the cost of doing so, or perhaps it was easier to just shut it down. I don’t know, as the help topics don’t pertain to it.

So long MyBlogLog – it was fun while it lasted! What do you think about this latest decision by Yahoo? Should they have kept it going? Did it provide any value to you, even if only as eye candy? Please share your thoughts in the comments on this post. And perhaps you will see your avatar in the widget when you do so?


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Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 03/01/11 at 04:00 AM
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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Surrounded By QR Codes In A Chicago Transit Car

Where last time I talked about QR codes on a Chicago transit station platform this time I am stepping into the car, where I am surrounded by a single ad campaign and large QR codes, as you can see in the photo below.

photo of QR codes for Real Southwest campaign on train ceiling

The photo shows an ad for The Real Southwest, which is being sponsored by the Tucson, Arizona Convention and Visitors Bureau. All of the ad spaces in this train car are for the same campaign, which is becoming more and more common place. What is interesting about the photo above is that it is of the ad affixed to the ceiling of the train car! The photo below shows a similar ad, but at eye level, and with a one word difference – can you find it?

photo of QR codes for Real Southwest campaign on train side

The actual train car I was riding on was full so I was not able to get other pictures without annoying other passengers any more than I was when I took these. Not every ad had a QR code on it, but there was always within a standard field of vision.

Instructions Built-In

What’s unique about this ad series is that the instructions are prominent within the ad copy. Many times if there are instructions along with a QR code on what to do with it, they are in small type and located in the corner of the ad. It tells you to get the Scanlife, not to download a QR code reader, which is also unique. And by placing the URL to scanlife.com alongside the code is, again, unique. Of course if you know what a QR code is you will just scan it.

All of the codes I scanned took me to the same web page on the Tucson Web site. What would have been interesting was if they had different QR codes, thereby being able to track which one people scanned to get to the Web site, or having a unique QR code on the ceiling to track how many people look (and scan) up.

What are your thoughts on this ad – is it as unique as I have said it is, or just a good campaign? Please share your thoughts in the comments of this post.


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Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 02/16/11 at 04:00 AM
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The Hot Iron strives to present unique content and perspective on business, technology and other topics by Mike Maddaloni, a Web and business strategist based in Chicago.

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