2011 Year in Review

This has been a very wonderful year for my wife and I.  2011 was a year of prosperity… 2012 will be the year of financial freedom!

To Come in 2012

  • Write my first Book
  • Write a blog post each week, 51 and counting, blog turns semi-pro
  • More networking with peers
  • Pay off 2 credit cards, 2 vehicles, and 2nd mortgage
  • NOT spend 15k on food 🙂
  • A few other experiments that I have in the works…

CountDown Timer

SNAGHTMLd734465During our last Week in Review broadcast, I realized we needed a timer which would provide us a visual queue for the start and stop of the broadcast.  Since our show is centered around the start of the hour and lasts for an hour, the programming was rather easy to accomplish.

I built an application which would count down to the hour and flash at the 2min warning and on the hour.  Since I have all these spare monitors on the wall, what better place to put it than up there.

Get it from CNET Download.com!

7 Technology Must Have’s!

Ever wonder what technology you really need these days?  Check out this list:

iStock_000017044605XSmall1. The most important thing to spend your money on, far and above more important than cell phones, is your internet connection!  Drop your cable TV, you don’t need it, what you will need as a replacement is a very strong high speed internet connection.  If you live within Northwest Arkansas, I’d recommend Cox Cable over AT&T DSL, but AT&T Uverse takes the cake (if it’s available in your area).

2. Setup that wireless router for your fast internet connection!  This way when your within your home you can take advantage of the faster speeds for all your devices.  (don’t forget to encrypt it!)

3. Splurge on a 3g iPad!  Pay the $650 plus $30/month for unlimited access, you’ll have entertainment in the palms of your hands.  Reading, gaming, navigation, weather, the list of values goes on and on.  Oh, and remember to hook it up to your wireless router while at home.

iStock_DiskArray4. Buy a good computer with tons of hard drive space… and I mean terabytes worth.  This could be a Windows Home Server, or just a standard Dell computer you’ve augmented with additional hard drives.  This will give you plenty of space for your media which leads into step 5.

5. Convert all of your DVD’s to digital mp4 files which can be linked into iTunes.  This lets you sync with your iPad or other devices to watch your collection of movies anywhere.

6. Buy one of those $99 AppleTV’s!  This will give you access to your newly digitized DVD collection on your television set.  It also provides you with access to pictures and other media.  Even the internet is accessible along with NetFlix.

7. NetFlix.  This will give you access to a wide variety of movies and television shows which you do not have in your personal collection.  As an added bonus, you can access NetFlix on your iPad, AppleTV, and your computer!

These 7 things are all you need to have a technologically well rounded life, enjoy!

Computer Support as a Profession is Doomed!

bigstockphoto_Businesswoman_With_Money_3339008Are you working in the general computer support industry?  Be prepared to get out ASAP!  No other time in history has a profession grown, aged and died so quickly as that of the Computer Support Professional.  You know, that guy that everyone knows that can come over and get your camera working for a tiny fee.

I’ll demonstrate through my own example. 

I was an eager college student ready to start my own business.  The one thing that interested me the most was computers and how they can help everyone do their jobs more efficiently.  Everywhere I looked I saw business in need of help with their computers.  Since I was majoring in Computer Systems Engineering and an eager new entrepreneur, it was only logical that I start up a small computer support business in my region of the state.

LCARS Technology was born in 1997 in response to a local law firm’s need for computer assistance.  They were willing to work around my college schedule, and I was willing to offer them computer support for a reasonable fee.  As time went on, like a lot of other college kids, I fell into the problem of poor financial education.  As a result, bankruptcy loomed and in 2003 I was forced to close LCARS Technology.  Not being swayed away from helping local businesses, I launched Heth Computers, quit my day job as an R&D engineer at a local aluminum plant to pursue the business full time.

During the peak of Heth Computers I had annual sales of over $100,000 and several dozen customers.  It was the end of 2005 and life as a computer support professional was resulting in wonderful sales, loyal customers, and exciting possibilities, but my world was about to fall around my feet. 

I know what your thinking, it was the market crash in 2007 that killed the business… and you are partially right.  I contribute the ultimate failure of the business to several factors:

1. The market.  I, like the small business that were my customers, were getting constricted by the local market.  Government fees, their customers tightening their belts and other factors resulted in many of my business customers closing up shop or shrinking to the point that my services were no longer required.

finacial knowledge2. My Financial Knowledge.  This is something I’ve worked very hard as of late to increase, and dedicate part of every week learning and studying.  If I had better financial knowledge, I could have invested the money I was earning during the peak times in better and more sustainable ways.  Instead the total lack of this knowledge lead partially to my companies downfall.

3. The internet.  I contribute part of the failure to the mass amaturization of computer support capabilities.  Google, YouTube, and other information sharing sites made it a lot easier to find solutions to computer problems.  No longer was my contribution to customers unique and distinct.  Now nearly every other employee they hired had computer troubleshooting skills.  I was not called for every little issue, instead I was called out for the hard to solve problems that required an experienced professional to solve. 

As my business declined, my need for financial security lead to a job in a very specialized version of computer support.

Now… I’m not saying general computer support is completely dead.  What I am saying si there are several factors leading to the general computer profession dying:

1.  As older generations retire and no longer need to be taught how to use and fix computers…

2.  As younger generations grow up with technology all around them and with the mentality that computers are simply tools that they can fix themselves…

3. As larger organizations hire low paid technical professionals to provide extremely low cost computer support for small businesses still in need of this…

Computer support professionals will be relegated to specialized fields or enterprise level support jobs.  No longer will a highly technical person with a flare for fixing computer problems be able to open up a small business and help those around them.

Creating Information in the Information Age

The Information Age is here!  This means the only real way to make money is by producing information, also known as content.  Then you can sell the content, advertise around it, or sell access to it.  The key of course is to produce meaningful content that people will actually want.

Information can take many forms.  Since I’m fully on board with the Information Age, I’ll only share with you the electronic forms that information can take.

  1. Written – Wiki and Blog articles, white papers, and e-books.
  2. Audio – audio-Podcasts and music
  3. Video – video-Podcasts, short films, mini videos, Movies and TV Episodes.

book_reportWritten Content

Remember back when you were in grade school or college.  The essays and book reports are simply white papers by a different name.

Since the Information Age began a few decades ago, the world of content has changed to something easier to create and publish.  Anyone can setup a blog in seconds and have their first article posted within minutes. 

Nearly every newspaper has a website where this type of content is produced and shared.  Some have pay-walls which prevent you from accessing the content without a subscription fee.   Others get paid by advertisers that post ads on the content producers blog or website.  I spend a lot of my time consuming written tech articles on techcrunch.com.

audioAudio Content

This type of content can also be generated by anybody with a microphone attached to their computer and something to say.  Audio content took the shape of broadcast radio before the information age, now this form of content takes the shape of audio podcasts, internet radio stations, and music. 

Websites like live.fm, pandora.com and others stream audio content.  They are usually plagued by licensing fees due to the fact that they broadcast music created by someone else. 

Audio content created by individuals and corporations alike can be published via audio-podcasts.  Visit iTunes.com for a huge list of content created by individuals both amateur and professional.

videoVideo Content

Here we’re dealing with something a tad more complicated.  Video content can be created with a simple webcam and a simple video editing software.  Both Apple and Microsoft include free video editing software with their operating systems, but it takes time to edit video.

There are tons of places online producing video content… Since Video can be both pre-recorded and live, there are different websites specializing in each.

For my live video tech content, I visit ustream.com or live.tv.  For my pre-recorded video content, the place I visit frequently is iTunes.com or YouTube.com.  Both allow for individuals and corporations to produce and distribute video for free.

So what does all this mean?

I explained all this so we’re all on the same page when I talk about some advice on creating lots of content from only a few ideas.

Lets say you want to demonstrate how to build a computer.  This demonstration will be created in the form of an edited video which you’ll publish up on YouTube and share with all your friends.  After the video is created, here is some recommended guidelines on how to get it out there and create several pieces of content from this one demonstration video.

  1. Convert your video into several forms.  YouTube is only the beginning of publishing your video.  Add the video to your website which displays the YouTube video for those who want to stream, and links for those who want to download it to some portable device.
  2. Create a few tweets which you will publish on twitter.com a few times during the week.  Have the tweet worded differently so you can get the maximum number of click throughs.
  3. Transcribe the video into a pseudo-white paper which can be published or sold online.
  4. Separate the Audio track for another form of content.  Then create a few sound-bite worthy quotes that can also be tweeted or published along with links on various social media platforms.

The idea is with every piece of content you produce, you have actually created multiple pieces which can be consumed by your followers at their convenience.

Have any advice or what to add your own comments… feel free to add them below in my comments section.

Is it me or is live television dead?

child-watching-television-silhouetteI’ve been without a live cable connection for more than 3 years.  When my then girlfriend moved in I had her convinced to do the same thing.  She’s now my wife and years later we are enjoying a television free lifestyle. 

Don’t get me wrong now… we watch plenty of videos and our 60” rear projection is on about 10-20% of the time with one more or television show on it.  But the delivery method has changed dramatically.

Back in 2003 I owned a Tivo and I absolutely loved it.  I saw it as the future of television.  How little did I know that it was the future but for a mere 3 years.

These days we watch television on either Netflix via our xBox 360 or iTunes and our video library via AppleTV.  For our on-time needs we turn to Hulu.com.  We’ve never been happier!

All of the shows and movies we watch are completely commercial free… It is amazing how much those commercials can such life out of you!!!

cablebillMy initial decision to cut the “cable” was a simple financial one.  I looked at my various media and the ever growing cost of “cable” bill.  Then it hit me… I could spend up to $100/month on movies and TV collections and outright own them.  Then I could watch them anytime I wanted!  I mean, the cable company bill had grown to $100 if you included the mid level package.

I’d highly suggest everyone make the same decision and cut the “cable” before it’s too late! 

In-Flight Internet services

The in-flight Internet service from American Airlines is extremely nice. It is very fast for Internet and email as well as for posting to my blog. This allows for keeping in contact with anyone anytime!
The service cost me just under $15 and is keeping up with nearly everything I’m throwing at it. Some of the apps on my iPad vie been using is the word press app of course, the FlightTrack Pro as well as other Internet related applications.

If you are planing a trip in the near future, I’d recommended getting the FlightTrack Pro at it not only maps out your flight paths, but also will give you real time flight tracking. Currently the app is reporting that I am half way thru my flight just over Arizona.

If you have an iPhone, another flight app I would recommend is Flight Update Pro. I’ve been using this app to keep tabs of my flights, the gates, and their current status. I even installed this app on my wifes iPhone and regularly update it with trips I am taking. This let’s her keep track of my flights.
Whenever you want to test your internet connection speed I utilize the SpeedTest app to get the stats of my connection. This app downloads a 1 mb file from the specified source to your device. By doing this you gain information on the speed and quality of your connection. During my Dallas to San Francisco flight, I tested the connection with the following results:

Download Speed: 3.16mbps
Elapsed Time: 25.319 sec

Needless to say if your planning a flight(s) some time soon, be sure you pick up a few apps to make things go easier.