Category: "Business"

Tigo Energy First Round

For the past several months, I've been acting in a technical and business advisory role to one of the founders of Tigo Energy. We've known each other for 23 years, from the days when I was consulting to UC Berkeley's Space Science Lab. Two weeks ago, Tigo Energy finalized negotiations with Matrix Partners and OVP Venture Partners on a $6,000,000.00 round of financing.

Congratulations, Earl, and all the team at Tigo Energy.

Open Source Lessons and Tools for Project and Product Management

Over the seven years that Clarise and I have been running InterActive Systems & Consulting, Inc. we've used our 6D™ methodology to manage InterASC Professional Services project engagements. This methodology came about from Clarise's 20-plus years of working in the software industry, and her training and experience as a project manager for IT implementations at HP, Oracle, CapTech, Williams and KP. And she's a PMI certified PMP. In the 1970's & '80's I worked as a program, project and line manager in Aerospace, switching in the '90's and 00's to working in IT. We brought our expertise together first at Oracle, and over the 14 years since, have been working together on refining our approaches to managing IT projects implemented by and for distributed workgroups. Colleagues pointed out that our 6D™ methodology was becoming more and more Agile in its techniques. Over the past two years, as we've been working more with open source, IT appliance and SaaS companies, we've been experiencing more and more about the community approach to managing distributed workgroups.

Learning from the Beekeeper James Dixon, CTO of Pentaho, Susan Gasson of Drexel University, the Agile Alliance and various scrum practitioners, such as Todd McGrath of supergloo, inc. and our own experiences, we had been selected to speak at the PMI NorCal 2007 Symposium at the end of September. For a variety of reasons, we didn't get to present our mindmap of our current thinking.

We generally start our presentations with the mindmap collapsed so that only the first level of branches show, and then expand along the branches in which the audience seems interested. If they don't tell us what interests them, we ask. &#59;) That's difficult to do through a blog, so we're just showing the whole thing.

As time permits, we'll be discussing our 7D™ methodology with it's Strategic, Tactical and Scrum tracks in this blog.

Barriers to Telecommuting

On my recent trip to D.C. I hooked up with an old college friend and his wife, both of whom are attorneys for different government agencies. The wife, who is the more technically astute of the two, was a regular telecommuter; the husband an occasional one. Neither do so anymore because the security restrictions have become overbearing, and the implementing technology confusing and policy restrictions on telecommuting have become onerous.

Most importantly though… The nail in the coffin of their telecommuting days… A new policy on "snow days"… Telecommuters must use PTO to not work on any days that the office is closed, and all non-telecommuting workers get a day off, due to weather making it unsafe to drive to work.

We know managerial resistance is still the biggest reason that distributed work is still the next big thing. And of course a good chunk of our consulting revenue comes from organizations needing help in developing and implementing distributed work programs. But it's still discouraging to hear that the message just isn't getting through the way it should. Could there be a leadership issue here?end quotation
-- Jim Ware, Managers Continue to Resist Telecommuting in the Future of Work Weblog

A leadership issue indeed, and all too prevalent.

Powercast Broadcasting Power

Powercast, which first came out of the closet at CES in January of this year, winning best Emerging Technology for 2007, has been getting some press this weekend [Engadget, CNN Money Business2.0, Ben Metcalfe - no not April's Fool].

While Philips was the first partner announced, the Business2.0 article states that over 100 companies have now signed-up. I'm hoping that one of these will come out with a cigarette lighter Powercast transmitter, filling the company car with energy giving rays of life for our cell phones, Palms and Bluetooth headsets. :>>

Powercast is the first [I think] commercial application of an idea that has been around for a very long time: beaming electrical power over radio waves. While existing in science fiction and comic books for as long as I can remember, the problem of efficiency and loss has prevented a practical product until now. Powercast technology uses a transmitter, small enough to be plugged in just about anywhere, and a very small, relatively inexpensive receiver suitable for wireless sensors, mobile devices, cell phones and computer peripherals, with the result being the transmission of 6 VDC over about 1 meter between transmitter and receiver, automatically "trickle charging" the device whenever it is in range. Using very low power [wattage] making the FCC happy, the receiver regulates the input, providing a constant voltage as required by the device. This would be much more convenient than inductive rechargers, such as from SpashPower or the eCoupled technology, which haven't seen much uptake as yet by the device industry. With the inductive charging technology, also around since before the turn of the century before last, you must place the device to be charged within the magnetic field of the charger - perhaps a few millimeters, essentially touching, hence the SpashPad. With Powercast, you only need to be within one meter, and you can keep using the device whatever device is being charged.

While Powercast isn't the dream of having your smart phone powered by the cell tower, it will

  • help road warriors trim down the number of power converters they need to carry about B)
  • encourage the use of both Bluetooth and may even help bring actual UWB and Zigbee devices to market :idea:
  • make life easier for medical implant users :)
  • help us aging, forgetful types :p
  • eliminate that old excuse "I can't talk right now, my battery is dying" &#59;)

One question that must always be asked is what health risks may be posed by such a device. Powercast has a series of FAQs available as PDFs, including one on health and safety. Be warned though, that after asking the standard identifying questions of name, email, company, phone number, and address, you are not brought to a download site; rather, the PDFs are emailed to you. Somewhat annoying [I hate the practice of forcing email to do file transfer], but it does force one to provide a valid email address if you want to get the information. While I can understand the desire of a company to understand who is gathering information on them, this seems to fly in the face of current open marketing practices. For example, there isn't a link to their corporate blog.

OK, rant over, back to health issues. According to their FAQ, which while somewhat generic, discussing RF hazards as a class, seems reasonable. Powercast uses RF and is no more dangerous than any other RF device, such as TV, radio, Bluetooth, etc. Their range of commercial devices seem to put out 0.5 watts for a USB transmitter, up to 2 watts for an unspecified application. Powercast claims that most devices are well below that 2 watt max, which is half of the 4 watts produced by a CB radio and on par with devices such as cordless phones and walkie-talkies. I guess this means that the tumor I'm [not] likely to get behind my ear from my Bluetooth headset will just a grow a wee bit faster. |-|

While no longer being frustrated by my Bluetooth mouse or cell phone dying at the worst possible moment would be great, I imagine that the real future for this technology will be empowering the ever increasing flow of data from wireless sensor networks, from active RFID and Zigbee to smartDust.

My take is that Powercast will be helping us live the TeleInterActive Lifestyle™ to its fullest, and fueling our data management consultancy as those terabytes become petabytes and the Googolplex of data being generated needs analyzing [no, not Googleplex, but almost].

Simple Backup Strategy

One of our hosting customers emailed me with a question not related to their account with us, but I was happy to answer anyway.

My wife’s hard drive crashed and after diagnostics, we had our desktop support provider replace it with a new one. We lost all data on the old one. They tried to retrieve but there was nothing there. They sold us a back up drive: Maxtor OneTouch III 300 GB/ Firewire 400 to add to her computer for automatic backups. I thought it was a good idea to buy another one for my desktop. When I got on Amazon and read some of the product reviews I realized that people either said it was very bad or very good. I’m confused. What would you suggest? Any specific product? You know my skill level. I need something that I don’t have to do too much tinkering with or have to periodically remember to turn it on. Anything you could add would be of help.end quotation

We don't test hardware, so we can't comment with any authority. If memory serves however, I believe that the Maxtor One Touch did get a good rating from Consumers' Union [publishers of Consumers' Report]. That being said, any drive can fail at any time, but most consumer drives last at least a year.

A good backup strategy includes a weekly full backup, with daily incremental backups. The Windows Backup software's Wizard can help you to set this up, or you could use any backup software that came with the Maxtor. One failing of the Windows Backup software is that it doesn't "ghost" your drive, so you may still need to reinstall applications to get them working correctly with the Windows' Registry. I'm not familiar with how the Maxtor works, but perhaps you can learn more from its instruction manual, perhaps on a CD?

You should also keep a backup offsite, such as in a bank safety deposit box, or at a server elsewhere via the Internet [there are companies that provide this service]. I found an article about business class services. There are also some startups aimed at the home office/consumer market that are less expensive.

Remote backup services get affordable By Beth Pariseau, News Writer 27 Jun 2005 | SearchStorage.com

Robert Gerace has a series of blog posts about "survivable systems", the first part of which can be found at Help Your Users Build Survivable Systems — Part 1.

Here's a simple strategy that you might want to consider.

  1. Buy a second drive. If you like the Maxtor, and its' easy to use, buy another one of those. Each drive should have enough capacity to hold the backups for each machine you may want to restore: personal machine(s), business machine(s), older machines that may have stuff you'll "use one day", your children's machines, whatever. There are drives available that plug into your home office network, rather than plug into the computer. I don't know if the Maxtor does this. There are also WiFi routers that have USB or Firewire connections that can act as network file servers, into which you plug the drive. This allows all machines on your home network to access the drive. You can also plug the drive into one machine and "share" it to the network, and then "mount" that shared drive on any other machine from Windows Explorer. If none of these work for you, you'll need to plug and unplug and plug again, the drive into each machine every day. That last one is bound to work though.
  2. Manually do a full backup to each of the drives. Take one to your safety deposit box.
  3. Set up your software to do a full backup weekly, and incremental backups daily to one of the drives.
  4. Weekly or, at most, Monthly, take the drive from home, and exchange it with the drive in the safety deposit box, do a full backup, and continue with your weekly and daily backups on the second drive.
  5. Test the backups and the ability to actually recover the data. Even large companies have discovered that the backup was no good, or didn't actually bring them back to full operation.

You may even want to buy a third backup drive, six months to a year after you bought the first backup drive, just to have handy for when one of your backup drives fail. If you're really paranoid, you can also copy to a "thumb drive" or CD, anything that's immediately important, like a report for a customer, or a school paper [no more "the dog ate my hard drive" excuses].

It may seem a bit extreme, to have so much redundancy, but we did have a case where the hard drive on my laptop died, and when I plugged in the backup drive, it just went chitter, chitter, chunk, clunk. Sad, very, very sad.

With so many things, like pictures and videos and music, as well as business data, being in digital form only today, a good backup strategy makes a lot of sense, and isn't that expensive anymore.

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This Web Log (Blog) is intended as a discussion of the business processes, life choices, management challenges, wireless networks, mobile devices, collaboration software, social networks and technical issues facing organizations and individuals: distributed workgroups, digital lifestyle aggregation, telecommuting, road warrior and all ways in which you can live the TeleInterActive Lifestyle™. It is a service of InterActive Systems & Consulting, Inc.

InterActive Systems & Consulting, Inc. (IASC) performs research in the areas of data analytics, collaboration and remote access.

InterASC Professional Services, a service mark of IASC, provides strategic consulting and project management for data warehousing, business intelligence and collaboration projects using proprietary and open source solutions. We formulate vendor-independent strategies and solutions for information management in an increasingly complex and distributed business environment, allowing secure data analysis and collaboration that provides enterprise information in the most valuable form to the right person, whenever and wherever needed.

TeleInterActive Networks, a service mark of IASC, hosts open source applications for small and medium enterprises including CMS, blogs, wikis, database applications, portals and mobile access. We provide the tools for SME to put their customer at the center of their business, and leverage information management in a way previously reserved for larger organizations.

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