Thursday, March 29, 2012

Just because you can, should you?

So I was surprised today to register a colleague's iPhone to use some web-based software. The company that provides the control panel we use lets me set register his name, username and password and a bunch of other things like address and phone number. All seems reasonable, at least it's normal.

But what pulled me up short was when I noticed the other details associated with the mobile device. This control panel makes a note of some things that seem slightly creepy:
  • Device type (iPad)
  • Carrier
  • Model (iPad2,2)
  • IMEI (the device's unique hardware address)
  • Location (the GPS co-ordinates where the user first registered the device)
I showed this to colleagues and pointed out that I now knew where one of them lived (he'd registered his device one evening instead of in the office, as had I; one of our clients had registered from his client's site, so I now know who that is).

We don't know how we feel about this - on the one hand, it seems that no harm is done and nothing is lost. But on the other hand, it feels a bit weird to see a photo of my house next to its GPS co-ordinates by clicking through this control panel that I've only used for business purposes. Especially when I was not made aware that this personal data was being harvested automatically.

It's left me thinking of the balance that we need to strike in pushing out new systems. Just because we can do something doesn't mean to say that we should - especially when there's no business benefit given to the user or the consumer of the service. In this case it just seems that the information is being gathered gratuitously.
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Monday, March 26, 2012

Why take time to plan?

Today I met with a senior director who has just been tasked with driving through his company's next major IT project. We spoke about how most of the gain will come about through the "soft skills" necessary to get his people to grasp the importance of the system, and how it can be used to make their life easier and simpler, as well as more cost-effective for the business. By comparison, the technical software and infrastructure elements are trivial and quick to get right.

When people are involved we can't ever guarantee success, but it will be important to get a core team together, from across the business, and to take time to plan. Why? Because a vision for change needs to be communicated from a leader, and bought into, and shaped, by those who will be affected and who can bring it into being. If we are all to work together towards a common goal, we first have to understand and agree what that goal is; otherwise we'll all aim at something slightly different, and friction will either pull us apart, or risk us getting nowhere.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Economist misses point on digital publishing

It came time today to renew my subscription to one of my favourite publications, The Economist. But I couldn't quite believe my eyes when I looked at the options. Economics is largely about making rational purchasing decisions and they've blown it with their digital pricing...

For most of last year I was reading each week's edition on my iPhone screen; then I fell in love with the digital version on the iPad and devoured it as soon as each new edition is pushed automatically to me each week. My paper copy rarely made it out of the packaging before it hit the recycle bin ... What a waste!

So, on renewal, I was all set to select the digital-only option and say goodbye to paper. But there is no price difference!

That's madness: there are no additional costs of reproduction and distribution once the first digital edition is prepared. The Economist carries lower costs and a higher margin on their digital-only products - those savings should be passed on to consumers in somewhat lower prices. I'm happy to pay for their high quality journalism, but not give them all the extra profit when I'm saving the costs of producing, packing and shipping the physical product ...

So I did the rational thing: I ordered the print + digital version, knowing that I probably will never use the physical copy myself. At best, I'll pass it on to a friend who can't pay / won't pay for his own copy. The Economist will probably be happy to have an additional (non-paying) reader; but in the process I'm not impressed at their mis-handling of the new media landscape.
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Monday, March 12, 2012

iMessage does work...

So Apple introduced the iMessage facility in iOS 5. I didn't get chance to play with it properly until I bought an iPad alongside my iPhone. Now I'm hooked.

  • On the iPhone, in Settings | Messages ensure that iMessage is 'On' and that you are able to Receive at your Apple ID email, as well as your phone number. Optionally turn on Send Read Receipts - it certainly enhances the experience to know that the other has read, or is typing...

  • On the iPad, in Settings | Messages do exactly the same, ensuring that you're receiving messages at your Apple ID

  • On each device, select Settings | General | Reset | Reset Network Settings.

For me, this combination meant that I can now type a message on either my iPhone, or iPad, and my message appears immediately on my other device. And the messages Re kept together in the same 'thread' of conversation with the recipient whereas previously I was seeing some messages associated with a phone number and others with an email address. Now the messages are unified.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Keeping data secure when travelling

There's a superb guide to the precautions we should take when travelling across borders with laptops, phones and other bits of modern technology. Although it's written from an American perspective, and the USA is probably most effective at inspecting selected technology crossings it's borders, the principles apply to anyone concerned with data privacy, especially when travelling.

Read the guide here.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Joining up iPad, iPhone, Outlook and Dynamics CRM

The challenge: how to avoid data duplication and minimise the time required to keep all my contact information in sync across multiple, mobile devices.
  • My iPhone uses iCloud to sync Contacts wirelessly with the iPad and with Microsoft Outlook. A change in any one of those places is pretty much immediately reflected in each of the others.
  • I use DejaOffice from the AppStore as a portable CRM system on the iPad for one set of business contacts; and this solution gives me the option to synchronise contact records and other information with Highrise web-based CRM with colleagues.
  • However, I needed to find a way to track and co-ordinate records in Microsoft Dynamics CRM; but do it selectively - I don't need all the Dynamics CRM records on my personal devices - and I don't want all my private contacts going into Dynamics, either.
The answer to this last bit is found inside the Dynamics for Microsoft Outlook plugin. I'm not quite ready to publish blow-by-blow steps, because I want to do some more thorough testing to make sure I've got the configuration right. But I'll update this post when I've got some nice, easy instructions. Or you can just contact me for help directly - use the Comments facility here so others can benefit, or email me.
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Monday, March 5, 2012

Smart travel - packing suits and shirts

Like most travellers, I don't have the budget to just throw all my clothes in the direction of the hotel's dry-cleaning service when I arrive. This video is just too good to lose track of, so I'm blogging mostly so I can find it again for myself.

Each time I travel I take care to fold shirts and suits so they need the minimum work when I get to my destination. This video gives me a couple of extra tips that I'd not used before (I like the way he folds the shirt sleeves, for example.)

Any more tips? I've heard some people hang wrinkled shirts in the steam of the hotel bathroom for half an hour, but I'm not too keen on wasting all that hot water.
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Friday, March 2, 2012

"Greatness is a choice" #London2012

Inspired today by Olympian and 5000m world record holder David Moorcroft OBE who says, "Greatness isn't only a gift; sometimes it's a choice."

He talked of Kelly Holmes who went on from winning Olympic Bronze after long periods of injury to win an astonishing two Olympic Gold medals four years later, in her mid-thirties.

Her success was by a tiny fraction of a second, almost nothing, and the fruit of lots of small decisions and hard work by hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people who contributed to her success over the years. Success is also about interdependency.

And the para-Olympians are inspiring as those who choose to focus on their ability, not their disability.

Bring it on: let the games begin!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Google privacy changes - two steps you can take

OK, so it's a little ironic to use Google's Blogger service to post about how to recover a little privacy after Google's new Privacy Policy changes come into effect today...

For those who have missed it, Google will now actively share information it collects about you in, say, Gmail with its other services. So the ads you see when searching will be more targeted, as will those in YouTube etc.

Most people won't care, or will see that as a good thing. But the European Commission thinks the changes violate European privacy legislation. Google has made the changes anyway.

If you're concerned, what can you do? Here, from. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, are two simple steps to delete browsing history:

Here’s how to remove and disable your Google web history:
  1. Sign in to your Google account.
  2. Go here:
  3. Click the “Remove all Web History” button.
  4. Click “OK.”

Your Google web history will now be cleared and remain disabled until you decide to enable it again.

Here’s how to cover your YouTube search and viewing tracks:
  1. Sign in to your Google account.
  2. Go here:
  3. Click your profile icon.
  4. Go to the Video Manager section of your profile.
  5. Click “History.”
  6. Click the “Clear all viewing history” button.
  7. Click the “Pause viewing history” button.
  8. Go to the Search History section of your profile, located on the lefthand column.
  9. Click the “Clear all search history button.”
  10. Click the “Pause search history” button to prevent future searches from being recorded indefinitely.

Head over to the Electronic Frontier Foundation website for more extensive sets of instructions on how to remove your Google web and YouTube histories, replete with screenshots.