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Duffbert's Random Musings is a blog where I talk about whatever happens to be running through my head at any given moment... I'm Thomas Duff, and you can find out more about me here...

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04/14/2010

IBM LotusLive Expands with Business Tools and Services from UPS, Skype, Salesforce.com and Silanis

Category IBM/Lotus
IBM LotusLive Expands with Business Tools and Services from UPS, Skype, Salesforce.com and Silanis to Serve Growing Demand for Cloud Computing

Launches New Cloud Offering Combining Email & Social Networking for $7

April 14, 2010 -- ARMONK, NY -- IBM (NYSE:IBM) today announced it is addressing the growing demand for business-focused collaboration by adding new tools and services, language support and pricing to its LotusLive cloud services, including integrated business products and services from UPS, SkypeTM, salesforce.com and Silanis. IBM will also offer the first cloud service package combining social networking and email for business for $7.

LotusLive delivers cloud-based, integrated email, Web conferencing, social networking and collaboration services to simplify and improve daily business interactions with customers, partners and colleagues -- all with IBM's focus on security, reliability and integration.

"In its first year, IBM LotusLive has won the trust of people from businesses of all sizes who want to work safely with people outside and inside their company," said Sean Poulley, IBM vice president for cloud collaboration. "Now IBM is weaving essential business services such as shipping, contract signing, Internet calling and CRM into the very fabric of LotusLive allowing people to get their work done faster."

UPS Brings Shipping into LotusLive

IBM is integrating UPS shipping and visibility functionality within LotusLive.  Expected to be available later this year, this integration is designed to simplify and speed important shipping-related tasks, enabling users to quickly manage these details directly from their LotusLive dashboard.  UPS serves more than 200 countries and territories worldwide; this solution places the ubiquitous UPS shipping services at the fingertips of LotusLive business users.                             

"We continue to see demand for business process improvement of core workflow responsibilities, worldwide," said Jordan Colletta, Vice President, UPS Customer Technology Marketing.    "As business moves faster, companies are looking to gain immediate access to UPS services.   Integrating UPS shipping and visibility capabilities within the flow of cloud-based collaboration in LotusLive is a natural step in meeting the needs of our customers."

Integrated Business Tools and Services Available Today for CRM, e-Signing, Internet Calls

IBM is also announcing the availability of LotusLive integrations with Skype, salesforce.com and Silanis. While the industry norm is to offer cloud services in separate silos, IBM's integrations remove barriers between services, creating a seamless experience across the applications and business processes.  For example, people can use files from LotusLive in Silanis, launch them in a meeting from Salesforce CRM, launch a call with Skype, or ship a package with UPS -- all in the same work flow from within LotusLive.

With the LotusLive Engage for Salesforce CRM integration, customers can take advantage of LotusLive Meetings, Files, and Activities to collaborate with colleagues around the world from within Salesforce CRM. The LotusLive cloud collaboration tools are a great complement to Salesforce CRM, offering a comprehensive collaboration solution for mutual IBM and salesforce.com customers.

Silanis e-SignLive e-signature services enables people from multiple organizations to use LotusLive to easily participate in a fully electronic signing process, helping to complete business transactions and legal contracts faster, more efficiently and with fewer errors. This partnership will expand the potential reach of LotusLive to the world's largest insurance and financial services companies, government agencies, integrators and service providers that trust Silanis to move their business processes online.

For example, Signature Mortgage Corporation, a beta customer for Silanis e-SignLive, is enabling clients to complete and sign mortgage applications using the combined Silanis e-SignLive and LotusLive solution. This will help to improve customer experience and retention at Signature Mortgage Corporation, as well as enable the 10-person mortgage consulting team out of Canton, Ohio to compete in a market where low rates alone aren't enough to win new business.

After downloading and installing Skype, LotusLive users can now use Skype to make voice calls via a simple click of a LotusLive contact's Skype name or phone number. Millions of individuals and businesses use Skype to make free voice calls, send instant messages and share files with other Skype users -- and now, LotusLive users can have convenient access to these same global communications tools right from within LotusLive.

These partner integrations from LotusLive help people work the way they want to work, demonstrate the power of the open Web and showcase the power of the cloud - allowing people from any company to easily come together to get business done. For more information on these integrations, please go to https://www.lotuslive.com/en/lotuslive_apps_2.php

Business email and social networking for $7

Available today, businesses can purchase a new bundle of secure, enterprise-grade cloud email and social networking for only $7 USD per user, per month.  Combining the capabilities of LotusLive iNotes and LotusLive Connections, the bundle provides essential email, file store and share, activity management, instant messaging and social networking services to enable businesses to work with anyone from anywhere and is available today at www.lotuslive.com/bundle.

LotusLive Now Supports 15 Languages

Today, LotusLive services become available in Danish, Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish -- adding to the current availability of Brazilian Portuguese, Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Simplified Chinese, Spanish and Traditional Chinese. 

A no-cost, 30-day trial in these languages is available at www.lotuslive.com/compare.

For information on the IBM LotusLive Partner Program -- including a no-cost, 365-day demo account for IBM business partners – visit www.lotuslive.com/businesspartners.

Skype legal disclaimer: Access to a broadband Internet connection is required. Skype is not a replacement for traditional telephone services and cannot be used for emergency calling. Skype, associated trademarks and logos and the “S” symbol are trademarks of Skype Limited.

04/13/2010

IBM and LinkedIn integrate with a new widget for Lotus Connections

Category IBM/Lotus
From IBM:

IBM and LinkedIn just boosted social networking in the enterprise with a new widget which offers Lotus Connections users instant access to LinkedIn profiles.

Big Blue's latest addition to its widget catalog is a plug-in that integrates LinkedIn's professional graph, information used to define people's connections and relationships, with IBM Lotus Connections social software for business. The new widget allows users to enhance their Lotus Connections Profile with information from their LinkedIn profile.

LinkedIn is an online network of more than 60 million business professionals in more than 200 countries. With the new LinkedIn widget, users can access the world's most popular professional network directly from Lotus Connections. With this widget, IBM is combining the best of business and professional social networking sites, making it easier for users to access and view LinkedIn professional profiles with just one click from within Lotus Connections.

“IBM's integration with LinkedIn demonstrates our commitment to providing social software solutions based on open standards that instantly connect people with information,” said Jeff Schick, VP of Social Software, IBM. “Through these integrations, we are making it easier for enterprises to maximize the use of and derive value from social software.”

The Lotus Connections Profiles service permits a user to share their contact information, report to chain, and details they provide in their About Me section on the Profiles page.  This new widget permits a Lotus Connections user to include information from their LinkedIn profile in their Lotus Connections profile. Some examples of LinkedIn information that can be included on a Lotus Connections Profile include: job experience, education, honors and awards, personal interests, Web sites, number of recommendations and specialties.

The plug-in can be easily added to a user's Lotus Connections Profile and gives each user control about how much they would like to share from their LinkedIn profile. The LinkedIn plug-in for Lotus Connections is available to customers for download from
https://greenhouse.lotus.com

04/12/2010

Want to learn more about Tivoli Directory Integrator (a FREE tool that is FAR more than just a directory tool) in a FREE webinar?

Category IBM/Lotus Consultant In Your Pocket Tivoli Directory Integrator
Tivoli Directory Integrator (TDI)
The Best Free Tool You've Never Heard Of
(The Developer Perspective)


Tivoli Directory Integrator, or TDI for short, is a great (free!) tool you can use in your Domino environment.  TDI moves and formats data from a large list of different data sources and targets using preconfigured connectors that come with the package.  And don't be mislead by the "Directory" part of the name!  TDI can take data from nearly any data source (even directories) and integrate it into nearly any other data source (even directories).

Oh, and did we mention it's free if you're licensed to use Domino?

Join Marie Scott and Thomas Duff as they introduce you to the fundamentals of Tivoli Directory Integrator and then show you how you can set up your own TDI jobs to take your data synchronization requirements to the next level.  In this session, the focus will be on non-directory data integration from a development standpoint, with a future session targeted towards the administrative use of TDI to synchronize directories across operating systems and platforms.

Visit Marie's blog at CrashTestChix

VIsit Tom's blog at duffbert.com



When (all times are in CST -6)
April 28, 2010 at 10:00 AM
to
April 28, 2010 at 11:15 AM


http://events.constantcontact.com/register/event?oeidk=a07e2uh2j4ec980bf3c

04/11/2010

Book Review - Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

Category Book Review Jason Fried David Heinemeier Hansson Rework
A picture named M2

After the buzz I've seen generated by this book, I needed to read it to find out what it was all about... Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson.  They are the guys who started the web company 37signals, a company that has found a sizable niche with software products that are simple and basic.  There are enough features to get the job done, and no more.  In Rework, they share their philosophy on how a company should be started and run, based on how they've run their own company.  While I won't say that I agree with everything in here, they do cut through a lot of the red tape and bureaucracy you see in far too many companies today.  You could say this is a book of common sense for those who have forgotten just what that means in an organizational environment.

Rework is divided up into a number of sections: Takedowns, Go, Progress, Productivity, Competitors, Evolution, Promotion, Hiring, Damage Control, and Culture.  Each section then has a number of one to three page topics within that section that talk to different aspects.  For instance, under Evolution, you'll find topics such as Say No By Default, Let Your Customers Outgrow You, and Don't Confuse Enthusiasm With Priority.  The writing is short, blunt, and to the point, and that's where the value comes in.  You don't have to fish around to figure out what the writers are trying to say.  If they say ignore the real world, they'll tell you why.  Too many people think your idea might be interesting, but won't work "in the real world."  Fried and Hansson think the real world is far too pessimistic, and their company is based on things that shouldn't work in the real world... a dozen employees spread out in eight cities on two continents, no salespeople or advertising, and telling the world exactly what makes your company tick.  Yet, their company makes millions every year.  Go figure.  Instead, try out your idea anyway.  

I found a number of new insights that adjusted my thinking during the reading of the book.  I'd never thought about "selling my by-products."  Instead of just selling an application, perhaps you can also sell the story behind the application or articles on how the application was built.  Another lesson was to make tiny decisions.  If you try and make a huge decision, you can get locked into indecision or end up fearful of the potential ramifications.  Instead, focus on the first step and decision that needs to be made.  Make it and move forward.  If it works, keep going. If it doesn't, then you can stop with little cost or investment.

So do I agree with everything here?  No.  This all works great for a small company with this type of mindset ingrained in its culture.  I can see it also working relatively well with small teams within a larger company.  But if you're a multi-billion dollar company with Wall Street demands, can you truly work from a basis of letting your customer outgrow you?  No.  On the other hand, should you have a product that meets 80% of the needs of people, and then let them outgrow that to another product that you make, building customer loyalty along the way?  Perhaps.  However, there are parts of this book that apply to companies of *any* size.  ASAP is poison... Meetings are toxic... Cultures happen... Those are all true, and all too often overlooked or ignored.

This book should only take you a couple hours to read, but the messages can significantly change the way you view your work and your organization.  Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with some (or many) of the points, Rework is a recommended read.

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Publicist
Payment: Free

04/11/2010

Book Review - The Big Book of Gross Stuff by Bart King

Category Book Review Bart King The Big Book of Gross Stuff
A picture named M2

If you have younger kids, especially boys, you know that "gross" things rule their world.  The grosser, the better.  Since you're probably not going to be able to get them to give up their predilection for grossness,  you might as well have them learn a thing or two in the process.  Bart King's book would be perfect to turn "gross" into a learning activity... The Big Book of Gross Stuff.  King dives into the subject in his typical tongue-in-cheek fashion, and it's the right style to keep your kids turning the pages (much to your dismay if you have to be the one reading it to them!)

Contents:
A Note On The Writing Of This Book; What Makes It Gross?; Gross Quiz!; The Miracle Of Birth; The Stream Of Life; Animals!; Breaking The Wind; Monsters!; Everyone Poops; It's A Gross Job, But I Don't Want To Do It!; Toilets!; Putting Your Best Food Forward; Sewers!; Gross Anatomy; It's A Gross World, After All!; The Skin You're In; Food, Drink, And Other Harmless Hazards; Kicking The Bucket; Epilogue; Bibliography

It's easy to see that King had a lot of fun here.  It's not often that you can deliberately be this gross and use so many bad puns, yet still be completely on-topic.  But while he's doing this, he's also mixing in quite a bit of learning.  Yes, everyone poops.  But do you know what happens from the time the food enters your mouth looking (and smelling) one way and exits your rear looking (and again smelling) completely different?  Do you know why you start to salivate heavily if you're about to "ride the Regurgitron"?  And much to my surprise, urine is far from a waste product in many cultures.  And yes, I'm glad I'm not part of those cultures...

If you have a weak stomach or are easily grossed out, don't read this book.  Really!  But if you want to give your kid something that they'll likely read from cover to cover (probably much to your dismay), give them a copy of The Big Book of Gross Stuff.  

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Author
Payment: Free

04/10/2010

Book Review - Little Blue Whales by Kenneth R. Lewis

Category Book Review Kenneth R. Lewis Little Blue Whales
A picture named M2

I was recently contacted by Kenneth R. Lewis asking if I would like to read and review his debut crime novel Little Blue Whales.  Given the genre and the setting (the Oregon coast, about 90 miles from where I live), I decided it might be a good read in my recreational pile.  For a debut novel, it's not bad.  There's plenty of action and personal intrigue going on with the plot and the characters, and I found myself spending a bit more time reading when I should have been doing other things (like sleeping!)

Kevin Kearnes, the police chief of a small coastal town in Oregon, has plenty of battles to fight in his new job.  The city council, along with a few members of the police force, are part of a "good ol' boy" network who run the town for their own personal gain.  While trying to take care of those issues, he has to deal with other "interesting" problems like the demolition of a dead whale that washed up on the beach.  But all those problems pale in comparison to what looks to be a far more serious matter... a killer who is targeting young boys and leaving them on the beach to be found.  While it's not a given that the crimes were committed in his town of Cutter Point, Kearnes starts taking the case personally when a clue is discovered near where one boy disappeared.  A small blue whale toy is found, and that brings back a series of repressed memories from Kearnes' own childhood.  He knows who the killer is, and he has to eliminate the killer in order to deal with his own past.

The story starts with Kearnes receiving psychological help in dealing with the aftermath of the crime described above.  He starts to recount the whole story to his therapist, which is where 95% of the book happens.  It then moves back to the present, where the psychologist has to decide whether he's still fit for duty, or whether his emotional state is such that he shouldn't be wearing a badge any more.  There's also a love interest in the story that drives Kearnes' decision about how much he wants to reveal and how much more he wants to be involved in the affairs of Cutter Point.  Stylistically, I enjoyed the story.  In terms of characters, I would have liked to know a bit more background on some of them.  Kearnes' partner seems to have anger management issues, and that could have been explained more.  The killer had a warped view of religion that drove his actions, but the why and wherefore as to how he got that way eluded me.  If that had been explained to me a bit better, I might have understood why he turned out the way he did.  Without that, he was just strange and bizarre.

Overall, Little Blue Whales was a good read, and Lewis shows promise as a writer.  He's already working on a sequel titled The Sparrow's Blade, and I probably will find that one when it comes out and give it a read also.

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Author
Payment: Free

04/10/2010

How to hide game messages (or particular people) on your Facebook newsfeed

Category Facebook
Over the last couple of days, I've heard a lot of people gripe about how they hate to see Facebook messages on their newsfeed for games like Farmville, Mafia Wars, Yoville, and the like.  While you yourself may not like taking part in those games, there's a good chance that others you follow do.  So can you filter out those game messages and keep the other stuff they post to Facebook?  Or can you just eliminate their Facebook postings altogether without deleting them as friends?

Yes, and here's how...

When you see a message for a particular game, mouse over the headline for their post.  You should see a Hide link appear off to the right side of the posting:

A picture named M2

Clicking on that Hide link will give you the option to hide messages from either that game or the person:

A picture named M3

When you made your selection (such as hiding all the Mafia Wars messages), they will all disappear from your news feed and you no longer have to be bothered by them.  

So now, I don't know who has a new tractor, who scored what in Bejeweled, and who has an otter who needs to be fed at the zoo.  I don't care, and I don't have to gripe about what other people are doing or not doing on Facebook.  

04/08/2010

Book Review - Your Money: The Missing Manual by J. D. Roth

Category Book Review J. D. Roth Your Money: The Missing Manual
A picture named M2

I first got interested in J. D. Roth's personal finance writings through his Get Rich Slowly blog.  There, he talks about what he's discovered when it comes to getting (and staying!) out of debt, saving money, and other various topics related to your hard-earned dollars.  When I heard he was writing Your Money: The Missing Manual, I was excited to get a copy to read and review.  I wasn't disappointed, either.  This is the perfect book to give someone who is trying to dig out from a mountain of debt, or more ideally, to someone who hasn't yet fallen into that trap.  Either way, the value of the information here is priceless if read and followed.

Contents:
Part 1 - Blueprint for Financial Prosperity: It's More Important to Be Happy Than to Be Rich; The Road to Wealth Is Paved with Goals; "Budget" Is not a Four-Letter Word; Defeating Debt
Part 2 - Laying the Foundation: The Magic of Thinking Small; How to Make More Money; Banking for Fun and Profit; Using Credit Wisely; Sweating the Big Stuff; House and Home; Death and Taxes
Part 3 - Building a Rich Life: An Intro to Personal Investing; Retirement - The Final Frontier; Friends and Family
Index

To understand where Roth comes from, it helps to know a bit of his story.  He found himself $35,000 in debt a decade after college, with no real knowledge of how to manage the money that was going out faster than it was coming in.  Add the purchase of a 100 year old house on an already-stretched budget, and he was desperate for change.  He started devouring all the books and magazines he could find on money matters, breaking down the jargon and information into understandable chunks.  He began to share this information on his Get Rich Slowly website, in hopes that he could help others in the same situation.  Fast forward about five years, and he now has a high-traffic website that has become a go-to place for those looking for realistic help in dealing with their financial issues.  So instead of Roth being a slick "professional" out to get you to buy something, he's just an ordinary person like you and me who has "been there, done that" and decided to share his struggles with others.

His book is a great consolidation of financial wisdom in one easy-to-read volume.  There are no risky schemes or shaky advice to be found here.  It's all solid information, designed to help you get a handle on things.  For instance, he covers the "debt snowball" technique that is often recommended for paying off loans and credit cards as quickly as possible.  But instead of saying it *always* has to be done a certain way, he offers up a few variations that may work better for different people (pay off high interest first, pay off smallest debt first, etc.) I appreciate that he's not dogmatic on "one way or else."  Another example is budgeting.  He realizes that most people have problems with budgets, so he recommends a number of ways to go about it (high detail, record everything, only use a few broad categories, etc.)  He even acknowledges that if you're really doing well financially and have no cash flow issues, you may not even *need* to have a budget.  But again, the acknowledgement that different styles work for different people is refreshing.

A few years back I attended a Financial Peace University program taught by Dave Ramsey, and I was able to get my financial house in order. I see many similar elements of FPU here in Your Money: The Missing Manual, and that's probably not a coincidence.  Getting and staying out of debt requires fundamental changes in the way we think about money and credit, and is something that far too few people are able or willing to do these days.  J. D. Roth's book is a much-needed dose of reality in the world of personal finance, and I would strongly recommend it to anyone looking to "clean house" when it comes to their financial affairs.

04/03/2010

Book Review - Shoot to Thrill by P. J. Tracy

Category Book Review P. J. Tracy Shoot to Thrill
A picture named M2

It had been awhile since I thought about the Monkeewrench series of novels (which I've enjoyed), but they were brought back to mind when the Amazon Vine review program offered up the latest installment titled Shoot to Thrill by P. J. Tracy.  It took a bit of time to reacquaint myself with the characters, and new readers would probably be a bit confused if this was their starting point of the series.  I also thought the ending was rather strange, but not enough to ruin the book for me.  This was a pleasant bedtime read over a few nights, with just enough tech/geek elements stirred in to make it a bit difficult to put down.

The FBI has a new cyber-twist on the age-old crime of murder.  Videos of actual killings are showing up on the Internet, and whoever is responsible has the technical chops to make the postings impossible to trace back to an IP address or a general source.  The feds decide to bring in a group of hackers and techno-geeks to see if they can succeed where the feds have so far failed.  What this actually means, however, is that the feds will be turning a blind eye to server access hacks and other acts that would be criminal under normal conditions.  They also convince the Monkeewrench crew to become involved, given their past expertise in breaking cases that no one else could crack.  The feds, local police, and Monkeewrench all figure out a tenuous working style that enables them to get along during the investigation, and soon there are a few suspects that have strong evidence of being involved in some way, shape, or form.  Monkeewrench finds a private discussion board where specific elements of each murder were posted before the actual killing.  But even then, there's still the feeling that perhaps some other missing key ties all of the acts together.  And until that key is found, there's no idea as to whether the killings will stop.

At the start of the book, the authors (a mother/daughter team writing under the pseudonym of P. J. Tracy) explain that this novel was written over several years, and the internet changed significantly during that time.  Social networking sites became all the rage.  But their main theme remained valid... what happens when the "innocence" of social networking and internet sites are lost, and they become the primary drivers for those who may have a much darker personality?  I think the story was true to that theme, and I have no doubt that it's far worse than we know (or than what's currently been uncovered by organizations designed to protect us.  After all, since we're supposed to claim all gambling winnings to the government via our 1040, even online bingo websites could be leaving a traceable trail).  It also pointed out that law enforcement are at a distinct disadvantage with laws that govern privacy.  On the other hand, I think it's no great leap to see where abuses by law enforcement in those areas would lead to...

In terms of characters, this would be hard for someone to follow if they had not known the background of the two main detectives and the Monkeewrench crew.  In fact, you'd probably say the characters were rather shallow as there was not a significant amount of backstory on any of them.  I'd even go so far as to recommend that someone NOT start with Shoot to Thrill if they hadn't read the other books in the series.  Plot-wise, the book seemed to lag a bit during the middle section, strangely about the time they started to find the suspects.  You'd get a suspect for one or more of the killings, but it was obvious that the person(s) couldn't have been totally responsible for everything.  So there was this "start and stop" feeling as arrests were made, yet the investigations would seemingly need to start anew because more angles were uncovered.  

Even with the things I found "off" about the story or pacing, it was still an enjoyable read, especially with the internet angle on the killings.  So long as someone has read other Monkeewrench novels prior to this one, I think they'd also find this installment worth reading.

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Amazon Vine Review Program
Payment: Free

04/03/2010

Book Review - Fantasy in Death by J. D. Robb

Category Book Review J. D. Robb Fantasy in Death
A picture named M2

So my favorite "romance writer" is at it again...  Nora Roberts writing as J. D. Robb in Fantasy in Death.  I make no bones about loving the In Death series, as it's *not* romance, but a sci-fi'ish crime series with characters that almost feel like family after so many installments.  And while the last couple of books seemed to be lacking a bit of the magic I've come to expect, Fantasy is back on the normal track.  

This time, Lt. Eve Dallas catches a case that seems to have no explanation. The head of a gaming company, Bart Minnock, is found in his holo-room, his head forcibly separated from his body.  It's obvious that he was playing the company's latest game under development, but all the electronic evidence points to him being in the room by himself.  And holo-technology is not such that physical wounds can be inflicted.  His three other friends who run the company are distraught over his death, but Dallas figures that one (or more) of them *have* to somehow be responsible for the death.  She just doesn't have a clue as to how they could have pulled it off given the evidence.  She's forced into relying heavily on her EDD team and Roarke to dig past all the blocks and tech, but even they don't see how Minnock could have been killed without another physical person being present.  However, when another holo-room death occurs under the same circumstances, Dallas has to take some major risks to flush out the killer, whoever they may be.

Roberts also takes Dallas into a subplot involving friendship and what that means in terms of being there for someone.  Given that Dallas isn't comfortable with almost any forms of personal intimacy due to her childhood trauma, these issues loom large in her life.  With the way the story unfolds, you see that Dallas is making progress in that area, though.  In addition, these insights help her to focus on why four friends might not be as "friendly" as they appear.  Overall, Roberts takes Fantasy in Death back to the type of plot and storytelling that makes it my favorite series.  The crime is the focus, the technology adds plenty of color to satisfy my geekiness, and it's just a great overall read.  

And as always, I can hardly wait until the next installment...

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Library
Payment: Borrowed

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