You May Never Be Able To Grab The Carrot

dangling-carrotIf you are enticed to become “a stakeholder” in a company or startup by having the stock options or warrants carrot dangled in front of you as an incentive, my own “stock options and warrants” tales of woe are a flip-side you need to hear. Especially since you’ll hear A LOT of the “You’re gonna GET RICH” from those trying to hire you or colleagues naive enough to think stock values go up automatically.

In December of 1999 I accepted a job at Vignette, at the time the fastest growing software company in history. With the initial shares I received, and the ones I’d be granted and earn-out over four years, I began to consider the realistic possibility that I’d enjoy an options gain of $5-6M over that four year vesting period.

You know about the “dotcom” crash in March of 2000, right? I sure do because Vignette never recovered and the stock (and my initial options) tanked. Though subsequent option grants were adjusted downward, those ended up in value too. It’s been said that “you can make a lot of money on the way up and the way down” if you hang in there with a downtrending company and I did, but that money was NOT made on stock options. When I left in 2003 with thousands of fully vested shares…they all were so far ‘underwater’ that all were worthless.

Vignette_Logo_1000x288Don’t think “Oh poor Stevie…he missed out on being rich” since I’ve done all right over the years and have a wonderful family, friends, my health and (hopefully, if the economy holds) a solid retirement portfolio. Plus, my Vignette experience was a remarkably good one. I worked with lots of great people, met and hung out with a handful of executive-level customers, most of whom I’m still in touch with to this day. Went on club trips (my wife and I took our kids with us to Maui to the Four Seasons) and learned a lot playing the enterprise game at that level.

Sure would have been nice to make millions though, heh? Yes, but after a stint running strategic alliances at Lawson Software (now part of Infor), I ended up going off on my own to perform management consulting and had an opportunity with startups and young companies that gained me tens of thousands of stock warrants…ones that would surely make me rich. Or so I hoped.  [Read more…]


Is Congress Really Gearing Up for an Encryption Battle?

bitsAfter the attacks in New York on September 11, 2001, Congress passed the poorly thought-out Patriot Act. Friday’s Paris attacks seem to be (once again) providing Congress with another excuse to try and legislate making United States encryption weak and putting another obstacle in the way of U.S. technology companies selling overseas.

That’s right….weak. Virtually every single cryptography expert on the planet knows that a force-mandated “backdoor” in software or devices will not work and will make the systems vulnerable to attack by black-hat hackers or state-run military cyberattacks.

Today’s Wall Street Journal had this front-page article, “Paris Attacks Fuel Debate Over Spying – Growing belief that terrorists behind assaults used encrypted communications prompts re-examination of U.S. policy on surveillance.” A few things from the article leapt out at me:

“A growing belief among intelligence officials that the terrorists behind Friday’s Paris attacks used encrypted communications is prompting a far-ranging re-examination of U.S. policy on data collection and surveillance.”  

No kidding. Anyone on this planet with intermediate technical skills can encrypt their communications.

Senator Richard Burr

Senator Richard Burr

Sen. Richard Burr (R., N.C.), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Tuesday his panel will launch a review of encryption use. “It is likely that end-to-end encryption was used to communicate in Belgium and France and Syria,” Mr. Burr said. He said encryption was likely because no direct communication among the terrorists was detected.”

Really Senator? Maybe they met in person?

But this is the part of the article that made me choke on my breakfast muffin:  [Read more…]


Yet Another Reason Facebook Disgusts Me

fbmessengerDid you know you are NOT able to stop the slide up “Please turn on Notifications” nag from the Facebook Messenger app?

Last night at nearly 11pm, I was already fast asleep when a Facebook Messenger group message came in. A family member in Seattle sent out a group message to a bunch of we cousins and I was startled awake. Then two people replied until I then realized all 10 of us on the group message would probably start replying! I then messaged everyone to please respect time zones and only group message in the early evening. No one else messaged after that.

I then turned off Notifcations and went back to sleep.

fb-messenger-nagEarly this morning I launched the app to see how to permanently stop this nag from sliding up after I’d turned off Notifications for Messenger. It didn’t work. Then I turned on Notifications and selected “None”. The slide up nag continued to come up every single time I launched the app.

So I searched Google for ways in which to stop this slide up nag since I am NOT going to turn on Notifications. Guess what? It cannot be defeated.

You may ask, “Why don’t you just delete the app you big baby?” I would, but both my wife’s side of the family and mine use Messenger to communicate with everyone. That is the ONLY reason I have the app, even though I’m getting very, very close to deleting my Facebook account forever and saying ‘good riddance’ to Messenger.

Facebook really, really wants people to use Messenger since, by default, location tracking is turned on so they can help advertisers pinpoint and market to you geographically. In fact, TechCrunch published this post, “Facebook Messenger Wants To BE Your Phone Number With New Message Requests” which points out what the “payoff” is for a company to give a free app like this away (and remember the old adage that if you’re not paying for a product, then by default you are the product:

Facebook is already experimenting with ways to let you receive customer service, attain a quote on home repair, or contact Page admins via Messenger. And there’s already a payment system built into Messenger. Imagine one day getting a Message Request from a business you’ve interacted with, then being able to receive important updates or even buy things from them right from chat.

This is Facebook’s long-term motivation and why their messages-removal-on-mobile was set to MAKE you use their Messenger app and the slide up nag—coming up every single time you launch the app—is designed to FORCE you to turn on Notifications.

No thanks Facebook. Stop the nag or my (and many other’s) disgust with your business practices will continue to grow toward hate. Here is the Facebook page where you can give them feedback if you hate this too.


Give Yourself for Christmas

Often I roll my eyes over people’s Facebook postings of clutching-at-your-heartstrings videos, but this one was surprisingly thought-provoking. My wife’s cousin posted this today and thought I’d share it.

Comes from a woman named Anna Johndrow, who published it in December of last year and she said this about it, “I found the message of this video from IKEA in Spain so touching and special that I translated and subtitled it. Hope you enjoy. Please share.


One Guy’s Experience with the New Apple TV


The new AppleTV device is about the best experience our family has yet had with any product like it. Is it perfect and actually the “future of television?” Nothing ever is, and this may-or-may-not ‘win’ the future, but in my view it’s about as close as anything has ever come to date.

For the last 15 years or more I’ve owned and dabbled with just about everything: satellite and cable boxes; TiVo; Boxee, Plex, Kodi (formerly XBMC) and other media center offerings; Roku; and finally AppleTVs (we own three of the ‘old’ ones). My frustration with most mainstream offerings delivering close to what I want—but also missing features I need like access to my own ripped movies, home videos, photos and music—that I ended up with multiple home theater devices connected up:

  • Roku – Mainly to access Amazon Prime and AcornTV (my bride and I are addicted to British TV)
  • AppleTV – for iTunes store, connection to our computers & media, as well as Airplay capability
  • Plex media center to deliver everything else that is not in iTunes on my computer and/or NAS (network attached storage).

Headed to the Apple store on Friday, October 30th to buy the new AppleTV since the Best Buy close to my house did NOT have them in stock yet (even though all news accounts said they would be in stock). The Apple Store Southdale shelves were full so I bought it and headed home to hook it up.

Booting it up the first time the device asked me if I wanted to set it up manually or via an iOS device. Selecting the iOS option I was asked to hold my device close and it sucked off the Wifi settings. Impressive.

Immediately I was surprised to see how much more detailed, crisper and saturated the graphics were on it. That carried over to the videos and games too. That alone made the purchase worthwhile, but obviously isn’t enough.

Buying and setting up a new device is always somewhat of a pain-in-the-ass since, even though one usually uses a backup for a new computer, smartphone or tablet to accelerate the setup process, one still has to connect it up and set up all the accounts and the new AppleTV process is not user-friendly.

atv-remote2I had to use the new, very slippery remote (and replacements cost $79.95 so DON’T DROP AND BREAK IT!) to manually scroll an alphabet to laboriously put in my email address and password for ALL of the accounts. No remote app for iOS is yet available—that would have made this a painless process—and I found myself pissed off that I had to do it. A bluetooth keyboard connection or Remote App for iOS would instantly fix that issue.

Next I launched the TV App Store and added all the familiar apps: Netflix; Hulu; some games, and more. Since there isn’t yet a “Categories” feature in the App Store, the only way to see what apps are in the store is to use that damn alphabet to click “a” to see apps starting with an “a”; “b” for “b” apps; and so forth. What a drag.

podcast-appWas stunned to find a glaring omission too: Where the hell is the podcast app? Especially since Apple was the first company to offer podcasts in iTunes; Google is now offering them so there is competition; and podcasts are accelerating in popularity.

Fortunately, once setup the AppleTV experience was phenomenal.

[Read more…]


GREAT SCOTT! It’s the Future!

bttf-doc-marty_600Wednesday is “Back to the Future Day” based on what Doc Brown (actor Christopher Lloyd) said to his passenger Marty McFly (actor Michael J. Fox) in the second film:

We’re descending toward Hill Valley, California,
at 4:29 pm, on Wednesday, October 21st, 2015

There is a ton of stuff happening on the 21st: Screenings of the trilogy at AMC theatres (check your local listings); the release of all three movies on Blu-ray/DVD or just DVD (those are Amazon pre-order links and I just saved over $20 by preordering today); lots of events, and a new documentary.

The documentary is called, “Back in Time” and is one which I backed on Kickstarter many months ago. Click “Watch Trailer” below to see what it’s all about. I’ll be receiving a link to download the digital version of the film Wednesday and am really looking forward to it! Here is the trailer for the documentary which yes, you can still preorder to rent or buy it here (or use the pulsating orb in the upper right corner of the video).

Below I’ve also compiled some interesting YouTube videos you likely haven’t seen before and hopefully might enjoy…

[Read more…]


Backing Up Your Digital Life


You are probably like me when it comes to backing up computers and digital devices: It is SUCH a pain-in-the-butt that only the terrified-of-disaster actually take any action. Make sure you look at the Newegg deal at the bottom of this post (and no, I’m not an ‘affiliate’ and get nothing from Newegg for linking to the deal).

Fortunately I’ve never had a house fire but have experienced multiple hard drive failures over the years. Only once, 10 years ago, did I have a hard drive crash to the point where it was unrecoverable. Ever since I’ve been of the mindset that hard drive failures and disasters are not a matter of “if” but rather “when”.

During that 10 years, however, I’ve heard so many personal stories of drive failures (or stolen drives), house or business building fires, a laptop accidentally being dropped overboard while on a cruise ship (and it contained vital, one-of-a-kind business planning documents), that I get after friends, family, and colleagues to backup; backup; and backup!

mom-n-kidAfter hearing one of those stories this past April, I wrote Your Mom DEMANDS That You Backup Your Computer! to see if it would kickstart conversations. It did, but specifically the two friends I was hoping would backup their mission-critical files, tens of thousands of one-of-a-kind digital photos, and other irreplaceable digital stuff….did nothing.

What happens if you have a fire in the house? Or the fireman spray water all over your office—even though the fire hasn’t yet reached in to it—and effectively ‘drowns’ your computer and drives?

Basically you’re screwed. Unless… [Read more…]


A Story About Genomics & ‘Precision Medicine’

genestoryWhat if you could get a free eBook* that would help you understand a lot more about a field that has already made a big impact on the human race, and is one that is accelerating toward a revolution in precision medicine? A woman uniquely suited to telling this story has already created the eBook prototype and needs your help in getting it to the point of launching.

You’ve heard about DNA, right? How about the term “genomics”? Of course you have since you’re living in 2015 and watch CSI, Sherlock and other shows where they use this field to catch murderers, rapists and those who shed their cells at crime scenes. It’s likely you’ve also read about almost-weekly major breakthroughs in medicine—especially those enabling precision medicine which target treatments at an individual’s unique genetic makeup—but probably thought like I have, “Sounds cool but I kinda, sorta don’t really get the whole genomics thing.

If you help this woman get the story out, you will be able to “get it” with genomics in an entertaining way (plus I’m going to connect with an education technology leader in my local school district since it will be perfect for school kids).

lynnAn artist I’ve known for 25 years, Lynn Fellman, has done amazing work for the last decade on interpreting DNA in to various forms of media, including interactive multimedia back in the 1990s to print, textiles and more today.

She doesn’t toot her own horn enough (which I’m trying to get her to do more of) but she’s been on NPR Science Friday multiple times (and Ira Flatow is a huge, and supportive, fan); a Fulbright scholar within evolutionary genomic research at Ben-Gurion University; and has worked with genomic scientists at Baylor in Texas and at the University of Minnesota.

During a personal healthcare experience she became very frustrated at the lack of DNA knowledge out there and knew she was uniquely suited to do something about it…so she is.

In a few short months she’s built a prototype and just began this crowdfunding campaign to complete her illustrated, interactive eBook. It’s premise is a character looking for precision medicine for herself and for everyone. It is designed for a general audience and its focus is as a guide to understanding our genome.

She asked me for my opinion on her initial beta version of the eBook and I was so surprised and delighted that I encouraged her to move ahead and immediately. When she did I offered to help get the word out and that is why I’m writing this post.

Check it out and please support her so this eBook can get out in to the world. When you go to her crowdfunding page, scroll down and see the incredible gifts you can receive for the various funding levels.

Here is Lynn’s crowdfunding page for the eBook

Learn more about Lynn, her work, & Fellman Studio

*In order to fully deliver on the interactivity, she’s creating it in Apple’s iBook Author (which is the best possible way to deliver interactive eBooks, by the way) and the eBook will be available for free to anyone with a Macintosh computer, iPad, or iPhone.


Google Cultural Institute

google-cultural-instituteIt was happenstance today that led me to the Google Cultural Institute, an online place to “Discover exhibits and collections from museums and archives all around the world. Explore cultural treasures in extraordinary detail, from hidden gems to masterpieces. Create your own galleries and share favorite finds with friends.

While I ate lunch I viewed ‘exhibits’ and took virtual tours of:

Though I’m quite astute with the web and user interface design, I struggled a bit with how the site’s collections were displayed. Most troubling was my inability to find that opening page again for the Anne Frank exhibit. I had to go back to my browser’s history to find the first page! It’s not as intuitive as it should be.

But that lacking ease-of-use is outweighed by the value inherent in these collections. All I could think of as I went through many of them was “Wow!”. Give it a try yourself.


Olga Wants Me!

Left: The photo that 'Olga' sent me. Right: Likely the 'real' Olga

Left: The photo that ‘Olga’ sent me. Right: Likely the ‘real’ Olga

The increasing sophistication of spammers constantly amazes me. This one, however, was the best yet. Not that I’d get sucked in to this phishing attempt, but the text was good enough that it got through to my ‘real’ email…and not just in to my spam folder.

Helo Steve,

My name is Olga. I am a 22 year old college student living by Moscow. I go to Bauman University (Moscow State University of Technology) and will be cumming to Minesota for a visit next month.

I have seen you on the internet and would very much like to meet you in person. Please email me or click this link:

Sweetly, Olga

Of course I didn’t click the link (and you NEVER should either*), but even as I write this I’m sort of stunned it arrived intact. Just goes to show you how careful we have to be when this crap is sent our way.

*What should you do? Hover over the link and look in the bottom of your browser window. You will see the REAL address they’re sending you to. The text for a hyperlink can be anything (e.g., Bank of America) but go to any URL. Don’t click on it…just delete the email.