It would take an Army

January 14, 2013 at 2:36 pm | Posted in Random Thoughts | Leave a comment

A long time ago I remember being coached to never answer interview questions with stupid comments such as “I think outside the box” or “I am a problem-solver”.  While it has been over a decade since I last interviewed for a job, I find that I still remember that very sound advice.  If I were asked today what is my greatest strength, it might be my ability to connect very obvious dots…I wonder if that is another no-no in interview land…

Dot #1 is our rapidly crumbling infrastructure and the seemingly impossible costs it will take to just stop the decay much less strengthen and reinvigorate our country to the point of its prior glory.  It would take an army of people to fix this problem and we apparently do not have the resources or budget to get this job done.

Dot #2 is the fact that our government is essentially based on defense spending.  We need (we think) to spend 1,000 times more money on our armed forces than any other country in the world.  Some reports actually show that we spend multiples more than ALL other countries combined.  Even faced with a rapidly changing global theater, growing deficits and an inability to pay even our basic bills, the U.S. insists on that large defense budget.

Dot #3 is the rapidly growing and increasingly hostile anti-US attitude that more and more of the world shares.  Gone are the days of gratitude for the World Wars and gone is any semblance of desire to have our troupes in these foreign lands despite the massive amount bribe money we pay these governments.

So let’s connect some dots.  We need an army of engineers and technicians and tons and tons of manual labor.  We have a very large, and largely bored and inactive, military force that needs something to do.  Hey, I have an idea – let’s turn the military loose on fixing our infrastructure.  Sound crazy?  Well it will not cost any more than it does today to maintain said army and there is actually potential that it will cost less in the future.

See we need new technologies and approaches and we have those in spades (ever pay attention to all of those IBM commercials?!?) – we just need the manpower to get the job done.  Not only are we rebuilding our infrastructure, we would be training our military force in the latest green technologies, cutting edge environmental approaches and essentially creating a very large case study that other countries can utilize as a blueprint to save themselves.

Now who better to help out these countries than our freshly trained military forces?  Instead of hostile passive aggressive attitudes, we would once again be welcome with open arms and could probably get paid to help these countries get from point A to point B.  Again connecting very obvious dots can lead to solutions we so desperately need right now.

This approach keeps everybody happy – Republicans get their Defense, Democrats get a huge economic boost from the new infrastructure and the public actually gains direct benefit from all of this work.  Suddenly we see our tax dollars at work as our roads improve and our electricity bills go down.  Military personnel can leave the armed forces equipped as never before to take on and lead the way through exciting new frontiers in conservation and efficient living and both the President and Congress and claim victory.

Lest you think the military cannot get the job done, this would be easy for them compared to the mission impossibles that they routinely face in placed like Iraq and Afghanistan.  With our industry leaders providing the expertise and our armed forced providing the manpower, this would be a home run.

So can somebody who matters please connect these same dots and get to the task at hand already?

My Holiday Wish…

December 15, 2012 at 8:16 pm | Posted in Random Thoughts | Leave a comment
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I consider myself to be an above average person in terms of intellect.  I am not a super genius – I have talked with some those people and they are working at a completely different level – but I am considered to be smart enough by people who know me.  I am somebody who can take any problem, no matter the scope, and come up with a solution.  It is not magic or instantaneous in many cases but, given sufficient time and information, I am fortunate enough to be able to see solutions that many others fail to envision.

So what do I do for a living?  IT.  Now that is not a bad thing per se – it is not like I work in porn or, gasp, politics – but IT is more self-serving than anything else.  Sure I have some cool ideas in the field – from hiding people online to performing the most advanced computer work you can imagine from a smartphone – but these are not really critical innovations from the perspective of the human race.   In fact, given the number of equally brilliant people in IT these days, my ideas tend to fall towards the upper middle of the pack to give some perspective.

That got me thinking and then I got annoyed.

Why are so many smart people working in areas that do not really help humanity when we face so many critical challenges that could end our race or plummet us into the dark ages?  Why are the only people working in the critical fields those people who have decided to sacrifice personal security and wealth for the betterment of others?  How did we get here as a species and why are things so wrong?

I personally feel that, like all things in the current world, money drives our decisions – well that and short-term discomforts.  When scientists talk about calderas erupting in the next 500 years or global warming doing us in by the year 2100 – we grin and think that we have nothing to worry about today.  This is not our fault as we are just now evolving from a day-to-day survival mentality that many people in the world still struggle to overcome.  If something is not threatening us this instant then we really struggle to focus on that issue for more than a few days.

Compound that reality with the fact that scientists – remember those people who sacrificed already – can never seem to grasp that everything is about money.  Asking people to sacrifice for some issue that might not affect us for 100 years or more is insanity and yet these really smart completely disconnected scientists persist with these messages.  Even somewhat modified efforts like the “green jobs” we keep hearing about are stigmatized by this underlying current of sacrifices and less money.

Now I could blame things on the education system and I do have huge issues with how we run education and view educators but that is not really the solution.  Before I do go on, however, I will say that educators should be revered above most other professionals, good educators (and all should constantly compete) should make a killing have all the resources they need.  For those truly ignorant people out there that think that anybody can be a teacher,  when was the last time you taught anybody?  Can you even do it both from the ability to effectively communicate your knowledge to possession of the vast stores of patience and empathy required to teach people what they need to know whether they want to be taught or not?  Even in your  own industry, with people who could help you if you only took the time to teach them – when was the last time you taught somebody?  Think about that and, if you are honest, you will realize that it does take a special breed of people to be good teachers.  But I digress.

For those of you who are older like me, we remember a time when computers were just for scientists and those other self-sacrificing people.  For most people computers were interesting just like global warming and broken ocean salt belts are interesting now, but that was about it.  Hearing things like “computers could help you in everything life within the next 20 years” did little to inspire us back then.  To that effect, nobody taught computer classes or programming and certainly nobody who wanted to make real money considered a career in IT.

So what changed?  Well people figured out how to use computers to make money.  Visionaries like Gates and Jobs rapidly evolved nerdy scientific equipment into useful business tools.  People figured out how to create completely virtual companies that can generate massive volumes of revenue.  Literally overnight an entire new industry was born and now it sucks in the best and brightest minds despite the fact it rarely generates anything tangible as a result.

IT has provided a clear pattern that other fields need to follow in order to transform our challenges into our strengths.  Think about it, all the Internet really did was to overcome a major issue – namely the lack of comprehensive communications and slow mathematical skills.  While we are still in an embryonic stage in terms of overcoming this challenge, we have built massive solutions and an exponentially exploding array of tools and options for our species.  Now imagine if global warming took this same approach – namely money was dumped into the field not in an effort to provide sacrificial solutions but to embrace open market philosophies and to generate industries that solve problems and make gobs of money in the process.

To be the first people in the door means incredible wealth – just ask the Gates and Jobs of the world.  That said, the risk is high and only certain people will ever be qualified to get these industries spinning.  Once industries are going then the second wave of smart people can explode the industry much as IT has grown.  But even this first step needs help and that is where, I think, two forms of revenue come into play.

First are investors – VC firms, angels, etc…  People who want to make a difference and generate wealth while doing so need to get into the game and dump real money into solving these issues in a realistic manner.  Bill Gates is doing some of this now (go search on Bill Gates, TED and nuclear reactors) but the play needs to be much larger and more finely focused.  As an investor stop thinking about these fields as outliers and profit holes and start finding people who can transform the needs into profit engines.

Second, the government needs to extend nonprofit donation benefits to those for-profit companies that are striving to find solutions to our major challenges.  Instead of working against companies that want to make money while solving global warming, the government should be embracing them and holding them up at the highest levels.  It will be these companies, should they succeed, that will transform our current challenges into realistic long-term solutions.

Once the government gets on board then people in the U.S. need to stop giving all of their money to charities in Africa and start pouring that money into these companies.  Providing aid to Africa is always a self-serving, make yourself feel good, ploy but unless we solve the real problems facing our species, it really doesn’t matter if you give to that African charity.  Of course the good charities should not be dropped altogether but we really need to focus on what is most important and we need to do it now.  Also, of course, I use Africa tongue in cheek but you get the idea.

Finding profitable effective solutions to our most pressing issues such as global warming has to be our priority.  Getting people like me into these fields and having us come up with those ingenious ideas is what will save us in the end.  Look people we are rapidly running out of time and that time is MUCH shorter that anybody realizes.  Scientists are still projecting the effects of global warming as if those effects will gradually ruin our world.  The reality is that everything in nature has a tipping point after which disasters happen very rapidly.  There will not be some slow rise in sea waters, one day we will hit a tipping point and seas will rise overnight. People STOPPED talking about the salt belts (which can go well before the sea rises enough to cause too much concern) and those effects could cause a new Ice Age.  I think if people sat down and worked through all of the real, tangible, threats facing us right now they would not sleep for a very long time.

We are pushing the boundaries now and we really need to get our collective act together before it is too late.  But this new effort has to be intelligent and entrepreneurial and backed by investors and the government trying to make money or drop bottom lines.  In other words, to have any chance we need solutions that make business sense and we need them now.

So sign me up Mr. Investor – give me money on the level I make now (which is unfortunately where I hoped to be by now), give me a slice of the pie and provide me with the data and target problem you want to solve (BTW solving global warming will require a staggering array of innovative ideas so there is plenty of room) and let me prove myself.  Then do that same thing for a couple of thousand other people like me who can solve really hard problems with really great ideas.

Let’s get started on making real solutions before there is nothing left to save.

Sales Tax

November 20, 2012 at 7:35 pm | Posted in Other | Leave a comment
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If you have not had a chance, please read my post – http://bithree.wordpress.com/2012/11/18/mr-president-your-plan-sucks/ – which tells you how I feel about the current Obama class warfare campaign.  To add to that post, I want to point out that my effective tax rate this year jumped to 35%, adding in my health insurance costs and state taxes, my effective rate jumps to 51%.  My accountant told me yesterday that I should expect that to go up next year by 10 to 15 points – or around 65%.  Given that the most expensive country in the world outside of the U.S. only charges 50% taxes – and they provide everything for that tax rate – there is a huge incentive to get out of the U.S. and fast.

Having now complained, and prior to initiating my own exodus, I wanted to first try to convey some level of common sense to the omniscient beings in our government.  Instead of continuing your obvious class warfare, perhaps we can come up with a REALLY simple solution that solves all of our problems – a national sales tax.  Hear me out.

Last year the U.S. GDP was 15 Trillion (with a T and lots of zeros) dollars.  Now take out essentials like food and, for the sake of being overly conservative, say that cuts the GDP to $10 Trillion – clearly overkill but read on.  Now suppose that the government had a national sales tax rate on that 10 Trillion of 2 percentage points (perhaps not even that – read below).  That translates into $100 Billion dollars annually and $1 Trillion dollars in 10 years.  It far and away blows the doors off of anything else coming out of either party and, best of all, it is fair.

Prior to explaining the fairness part, I want to first talk about actually closing a loophole that will more than likely transform that 2% into more like 1% – namely taxes on Internet sales.  Being taxed for online purchases is clearly an exception and not a rule and this can and should be fixed immediately to help raise taxes.  Online companies get out of these taxes today by saying sales are across state lines – guess what a national sales tax solves that issue. Again – something simple with huge revenue potential.

As for the fair part – and remember I took out 33% of the GDP to cover essential goods – these taxes are only things we buy but are not essential.  If you have more money and want to buy more things – good for you – pay the extra 2% sales tax on it.  Don’t want to pay the taxes, then don’t buy that LCD 65″ Super TV.  This is fair because we are being taxed on things that take advantage of our economy and country – the more you want to enjoy those privileges, the more taxes you pay.  Moreover, we control the taxes and we are not forced to pay taxes by some authoritarian figure that found a population with no real representation.

This is dead simple – there are no itemized expenses, loopholes or anything – it is a simple national sales tax that covers all nonessential purchases.  Of course we will need Webster to go fight the lobbyists on what is “essential” but I think even our government can figure that one out.

So why isn’t this idea on the table?  Why are you chasing the most valuable, and least represented, population segment out of the country for no good reason?  Hello?  Seriously?!?

Mr. President…Your Plan Sucks

November 18, 2012 at 4:12 pm | Posted in Random Thoughts | 1 Comment

While growing up, I did not have the easiest of lives.  My parents were not the best and continued to claim me as a dependent despite the fact that they had not paid for anything for me since before I graduated high school.  When I tried to get financial aid, the director of my department laughed at me and said “You can’t get financial aid – you are white”.  This was 1990 and he was correct – I never got more than loans but I did work my way through college.

To be clear, “working my way through college” meant living in a car for about 15 months, not knowing if I would eat again and being desperate to survive, much less excel.  For years my standard nighttime regime consisted of drinking an extremely large cup of water, which would fill my stomach, and then going to sleep.  For years, I would get to eat only every few days and then only if I was lucky.

But I was undaunted and I worked, and worked, and worked.  I continued to fight against discrimination.  I was discriminated against because I was white or because I was male and, often in very candid talks, people holding the keys to my success bluntly told me that they wanted me to work for them but they had to choose the minority because “that is the was it is”.

So I continued to work.  While others were hanging out watching sports, partying at night and having fun, I worked.  When others slacked off on the job and got into drugs, I worked.  And worked and worked.  I took whatever job I could find – often 3 or 4 at a time – I worked for no money in order to get ahead.  I worked for slave wages or in incredibly dangerous jobs to make money to move forward.  I have never stopped trying, never stopped pushing and, inevitably, I started to succeed.

So what is my reward?  Taxes.  Now I have to pay my Fair Share because I make decent money.  Those “poor other people” need breaks but, no, not me.  I was one of those “poor people” – essentially homeless, isolated, desperate and with no way out.  But I persevered and overcame and now I am being told that I have to give away more and more money so the government can get bigger and bigger and help all those unfortunate people who partied and enjoyed their lives instead of killing themselves like me.

I am not a millionaire – not even close – but I do make enough money to fall under this ridiculous notion of making enough money to pay everything to the government.  So why have I wasted my life to this point and why have I worked so hard when, at the end of the day, this complete ignorance makes me no better off than Joe Six Pack who never worked too hard but is lucky enough to avoid the completely ignorant “rich” mark?

After paying insane taxes for the “luxury” of living in a crappy neighborhood in New Jersey of all places and having to pay the high utilities and property taxes and food bills, I have very little to show for my efforts.  Then the truly enlightened randomly decide that if you are not in the poor house with everybody else…well you should be and to pay for their excesses and they will be damned if I am not poor as well.

You know what?  I tend to think the same about these things as many other people in my shoes.  Perhaps these others were not completely destitute like I was but they are the true backbone of America.  We are the ones starting small businesses, trying to succeed and providing jobs for a large number of Americans.  Every time I think about things a certain way, I find that other people in my shoes feel the same way.

The first thing that I think is that if this class warfare continues, I am gone.  The way the idiotic Democratic Party is going, I will soon be paying 50% of my earning to government.  And what do I get for it?  Nothing.  I can go to a LARGE number of countries that take no more than that but turn around and provide free healthcare, a better infrastructure and far superior schooling for my kids.  I am extremely marketable as I possess skills wanted worldwide – and I am gone, done with the USA, see you later, good-bye.  Continue to unfairly punish us and we will take our collective efforts and businesses and find a better place to live.

To be clear, I am not a Republican or a Democrat – I tend to hate Big Government and I despise people who trash our environment for business gains.  Each election cycle, I review the candidates for what they say, not what party they come from.  I tend to find a larger and larger group of people and starting to do the same thing.

Second, I think that neither party truly taxes the RICH.  Look closely at the tax plans and the provisions and you soon see that the truly wealthy will end up paying not much more than they do today.  For the rest of us – from people like me barely above the threshold to minor millionaires – we get shafted because we are not big enough to fight back.  The political morons, backed by the truly elite, paint us as well off and full of extra cash (what a load of garbage) but, since we have no real money lying around, we cannot fight back.  The rest of the country does not pay attention and believes whatever is spouted out of their TV and now we are somehow the privileged, the ones who should pay and it is unfair.  Ever heard about taxation without representation?!?

And why, Please Explain This One, is $250K considered rich?  My house costs a fortune because I live in stupid New Jersey – and yet it is 1900 sq ft (on a good day).  Groceries cost insane amounts of money, pre-K fees are outrageous – criminal actually – just to live here costs more than I can believe – and I am in the suburbs!  Why this ridiculously low number?  Why not something that makes more sense like $1M or $5M?!?

Since we cannot fight, we will leave.  Slowly at first but then in droves as you and your punitive government will disenfranchise us and the rest of the world will welcome us with open arms.  You don’t care? Fine.  Remember that when unemployment skyrockets (who do you think spends the most money monthly and, no, it is not the insanely wealthy) and remember that when you look in your town or city and see nothing but chain departments as the local stores are all gone.

We are done with you and your unfair attacks and unfair treatment.  I have worked like a dog for 41 years and this kind of unfair retribution against me is almost communist in its nature.  Pass these tax hikes on us defenseless hard-working small business owners and watch us leave.  Then who will you find to pay for your partying and excessive government?

Dark Matters?

June 10, 2012 at 8:59 pm | Posted in Random Thoughts | Leave a comment

I am not a physicist, nor do I play one on TV.  I honestly dropped the entire field after three things unfolded in college.  First a tenured professor waked into the first day of my 5th semester class and said that he was tenured, we would at most learn 15% of what he said and that the curve would take care of the rest (he was correct on all accounts).  Second I went to my quantum physics class and was told that everything we had learned to date was essentially garbage and that things worked completely differently.  And, finally, the explanation of why things worked differently was being explained by adding variables to both sides of unsolvable equations (they call them nice things like “dimensions”.

Now if you have ever tried to solve these interminable equations, Of Course, you would have loved the chance to add a variable here or there to make things easier – and this is how we explain physics today?!?  I am not saying these people are ignorant, stupid or even moderately intelligent – I actually think these are some of the most incredibly intelligent people around and that makes me all the more frustrated with seemingly obvious flaws in their logic.

So let’s take “dark matter” (forget dark energy – it only “exists” due to dark matter).  The general theory here is that there must be something out there in the universe that is causing the gravitational effects we are witnessing (and by witnessing, I mean staring at images from billions of years in the past, but that is for another post).  The evidence is clear – galaxies spread at a much slower rate, unexplained phenomenon occur, etc… that just cannot be accounted for by the visible matter in the universe.

Their answer?  Dark Matter.  Now you cannot actually see dark matter even though it is supposedly all around us, you cannot test it, investigate it and, despite every attempt otherwise, prove its existence.  Sort of sounds like religion for the physicist…

With all of this in mind,I read this article – http://www.space.com/8336-black-holes-kill-entire-galaxies.html – which talks about how black holes will literally destroy a galaxy not by eating it but with a massive expulsion of energy that tears the galaxy apart.  We already know the early universe abounded with black holes – http://www.cnn.com/2011/US/06/15/black.holes.nasa.chandra/index.html?iref=allsearch and that black holes can coexist with one another – http://www.cnn.com/2007/TECH/space/01/11/three.black.holes/index.html?iref=allsearch.  We also know that early black holes were massive – http://www.cnn.com/2004/TECH/space/11/23/black.holeformation/index.html?iref=allsearch

OK so work with me here a minute.  We need to explain incredible amounts of gravity based on something not being observable.  Black holes are more plentiful than imagined.  Most eventually destroy their respective galaxies which would make them…err…dark?

On one hand we have some cool sounding variables (I mean Dark Matter just sounds cool) with no proof at all and, in the other corner, we have  black holes that are growing in abundance on, it seems, a daily basis…

Am I taking crazy pills here (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wC8y0HoopVE)?

What am I missing here and why is nobody else pointing out the obvious?  Have our scientists gone so far down a rabbit hole that this relatively easy (albeit frightening) explanation eludes them?  Why is this so difficult to even investigate?

Come on man.

I am sure that there is some mathematical model with some really beautiful variables (mostly made up to keep things going) that makes me look stupid.  I am sure that the basic foundation of dark matter being the need for a massive, distributed gravitational force cannot be accounted for by the billions of unseen black holes in our universe…somehow.

But, seriously, what makes more sense to you?

iPad is GREAT…for watching movies???

March 21, 2012 at 9:14 am | Posted in Tech Talk | Leave a comment

To properly set the context, I am the proverbial PC.  Well I actually started in the Unix world back in the early 90′s and spent much of that time writing Assembly-level programs in a multitude of languages while maintaining a range of Unix servers.  But by 1996 I had fully jumped on board the MS bandwagon and ASP 1.0, SQL Server 6.5 and away I went.  Sure I have my share of issues with Microsoft products over the years but I have generally prospered with a mainly MS bend. I am now a CTO consultant for a range of companies, a serial entrepreneur with numerous active startups and an online marketing manager.

That is not to say that I am a Microsoft-Or-Die person – quite to the contrary.  I have built my success on finding the best tool to fill a business need and used that technology accordingly.  On the consumer side, I have an Android phone that – while the battery lasts – is decent.  Though, to be honest, my old Blackberry was, for its time, the best phone I have ever possessed.

Yet Microsoft keeps falling further behind.  I now mainly use Firefox given all of the IE 8 issues with cookies and identity management and you have to be living in a cave not to see the dominance of the iPad.  But I held off – I use Office extensively and brief forays into Google Docs, Open Office, etc.. only reinforced the fact that MS Office is far superior across the board.

Then the iPad…err…3?…HD?…WasteOfMoney…came out and given the huge hardware specs AND the fact that Microsoft once again pushed their Windows 8 tablet release date, I pulled the trigger.  I even inscribed “Don’t Tell Microsoft” on the back as a joke – turns out the joke was on me.

So I got my shiny little iPad and I immediately set about trying to make it a functional system and found that to be a complete exercise in futility.  Nothing works as it should and the overall lack of even the simplest of features is both shocking and harkens me back to the Office 97 days before Microsoft got it right.

iMail

So iMail should be called uMail where the u stands for useless, unimaginative and unable to support real business users.  As with many people I know, I have numerous email accounts that I use on a daily basis.  iMail makes everything incredibly difficult and lacks some basic functionality that obviates its use on a daily basis.  To show what I mean, let me compare iMail to Outlook

Account Setup

Both Outlook and iMail offer some standard ways to add in new accounts but iMail automatically uses IMAP instead of POP3 for these pre-configured options.  Why does this matter?  Well IMAP assumes a constant connection to an email server and that does not exist in the mobile world.  You would think that Apple would have thought this through for two seconds.  But, no, to use the pre-configured options you are stuck with IMAP.

More important to me, however, is the ridiculous process iMail uses for “Custom Accounts”.  So we are clear that includes any POP3 account as well as any provider like Go Daddy, standard hosted email servers, etc…  In fact most IT departments change POP3 and SMTP ports for security and that causes you to enter Custom Account information.  For Outlook this process is easy – you click on a button that says “I Will Enter Server Information”.  You enter the information on the next page, set a few optional settings and you are done.  I recently switched computers and I added all of my email accounts to Outlook in under 10 minutes.

To say iMail was harder is a massive understatement.  First, in their brilliance, the iMail developers do not provide any port options.  Instead you provide your email address and password and a main mail server.  Unlike Outlook where entering security credentials for SMTP is as simple as clicking a radio button, you have to enter the SMTP information manually – not a big deal but annoying over a large number of accounts.  And then the wait begins.  See iMail in all of its glory decided not to bother people with port numbers – which is why most accounts are custom to begin with.  Instead you have to literally sit there and wait…and wait…and wait.  10-15 minutes later iMail will say that it cannot connect using a secured channel and sarcastically asks if you want to use an unsecured channel.  If you say no then you get kicked out – otherwise you have to say yes and wait…and wait…and wait.

Some 20-25 minutes after you started, iMail will then fail completely and let you save your account even though it does not work.  Now here is the Best Part.  To get the account to work, you have to exit iMail, go into the Setting application, then go to the defunct account, then go to the server that “failed”, then go into Advanced properties and THEN you can enter the correct port and do this for both your POP3 and SMTP servers.  And these guys complain that MS is not user-friendly?!?

What took me under 10 minutes in Outlook, took me 4 hours in iMail.  Better yet, adding in accounts that use the same servers did not help at all.  You have to run through this ridiculous course for each account.  But wait – there is more.

Folders

The Death Blow for productivity for iMail is that there are NO FOLDERS!!!  In Outlook I have a extensive set of account-independent folders divided by clients, business projects, etc…  Within a given folder there can be emails from a range of accounts and it all works perfectly.  Not only is there no concept of account-independent folders in iMail but you cannot create folders within a specific account.  Instead you need to log directly into whatever native mail client you can find for each of your accounts and setup folders there.  At that point iMail will graciously download said folders within that account.

So IMAP means that I cannot delete anything or the mail will not synch on my other devices.  POP3, so you are aware, has a huge advantage here as each POP3 client can interact with mail in isolation.  I have no independent folder system to at least organize the emails I receive and thus I am stuck with inanely long lists of emails in a completely worthless client.  Best of all, since apparently all Mac users rely solely on iMail (and must only have one account), there are no app options.  I downloaded and tried 20 different apps but nothing fixed the central issues described herein.

Folder System

Wait – has this guy gone over the edge?  Didn’t he just rip the folder system?  Perhaps it is a theme but the iPad – outside of iMail – fails to provide a folder system as well!  That’s right folks, if you are hoping to maintain a logical set of folders across applications, I guess you need to wait for Windows 8.

In Windows I can create a series of folders – such as My Documents => Clients => Client A, Client B, etc…  In any of these folders, I can have Word, Excel, PowerPoint and PDF files all mixed together.  This is not rocket science and has been around since the mid-1990s.  Imagine my surprise, therefore, when I could not find a similar option on the iPad.

Instead Apple, again the smartest guys around (right?  am I on Crazy Pills here?) decided to add a new layer on top of My Documents so that the same path above would look as follows Applications => Application => My Documents => Clients => Client A, Client B, etc…  Within Pages or Numbers or any other of their creatively-named apps, a user can organize documents of a given type but you cannot do so outside of that application.  These geniuses determined that people should only access files from an application first but what if you are like me and you cannot remember what application you used initially?  How about organization options such as sending a Word document summary with a financial model spreadsheet with a PowerPoint pitch deck?  On the iPad you are out of luck.

Now there are apps that try to help out in this regard but they are clunky and force you to open up yet another interface to get what MS provides baked into their system.

Where’s The Beef?

Given the limitations that make me think about throwback Windows systems of the late 90′s, I figured that this title was apropos.

I kept hearing how Keynote blew the doors off of PowerPoint or how Pages was far superior to Word (nobody by the way even tried to go there with Numbers and Excel).  I am here to tell you that I have used both and, if anything, PowerPoint and Word are far more productive and powerful than anything Mac has produced.  Sure Keynote has draggable components in it that do not exist on a standard PC but that is due to the PC part (i.e. no touchscreen) more than anything else.  There is literally nothing I could find in any of these products that I could not do in the MS Office equivalent.

And yet, I know something you don’t know.  MS has cross product integration that does not exist in Mac Land and I can embed things like videos and fonts in MS Office that I cannot do in the Mac apps.  So I can create elegant charts in Excel and drag those into Word or PowerPoint, embed a video and then embed the crazy font I am using and ship the whole thing out as one contiguous file that will play on any Windows device exactly as I want it to appear.  Can’t do that with Mac unless you use standard Mac fonts and drop those “advanced” features like multimedia.  Forget about trying to drag on app like Pages onto another like Keynote – does not work and there is not even a way to get this done.

In the end, I found the iPad very enjoyable for playing the free games that came on it, browsing the Internet and watching videos.  The screen is very clear and the images crisp.  If you are looking for a larger-than-your-smartphone option for multimedia viewing and can afford it, the iPad is not a bad option.  For power users, people who want to get things done and for anybody who actually wants to do more than play with a tablet, the iPad falls WAY short…

Do you think I could trade this iPOS in for a Windows 8 tablet?!?  Please???

Investment Question

December 28, 2011 at 12:27 pm | Posted in Investment Lessons | Leave a comment

When I first started out in the startup game, I thought I had all the answers and was full of…err…myself and the incredible value of my ideas…

Man I was green back then.

I went through the typical struggles with numerous startup efforts – some complete disasters and others with some modicum of success – before really breaking through with my current startup – IP Ghoster (http://www.ipghoster.com).  Briefly this company will provide next generation tools such as VPS, Invisible VPN, VPN+, Mobile VPN and Counter Intrusion Network Defense products.  Talks with government intermediates and enterprise folks shows a strong interest in the enterprise tool set while the market for the consumer products is exploding.

I learned my lessons and I have a quality pitch deck, well thought out business plan, financial model and I have a milestone-based development shop that will complete the initial round of projects on a fixed-price basis.  I know the equity world well at this point and I have yet to hear any complaints about my valuations.

And yet I feel completely lost right now in terms of investors.

Let’s start with my seed round investor who runs the Nordstrom investment group.  He is a really great human being, has always been very upfront with me and we have a great working relationship.  His model is clear – he puts in some money upfront and then looks for other investors to come in to validate the company prior to investing further.  That makes perfect sense and he has, in fact, gone above and beyond in helping me with the company since that initial investment.  When I pitched IP Ghoster to him, he asked business questions (ROI projections, market scope, etc…), negotiated valuation with me and set up the investment accordingly.  Maybe I got lucky/spoiled in thinking this is how all investors act.

That was so 2010 and, flashing forward to the Fall of 2011 where I found a completely different set of investors.  I met investors through many different forums – and they will remain nameless for now – but the pattern was always the same.  During an initial conversation, the would-be investor would ask a large number of questions, express a high level of interest and usually would follow up with a request to talk.  Either during that next call or, depending on the investor/organization, within a few weeks, that investor would inevitably try to sell me their services:

“Oh you need to pitch at my event which costs $$$”

“You really need to hire my CFO/Legal/Accelerator company for all of your equity”

“I can get you your money but I need X amount of the money obtained and Y equity and Z warrants”

Invariably these investors would demand that I pay them to invest in my startup – over and over it was the same story for different forums/services/etc…  Best of all were those investors wanting a percent of the money brought into the company as they were not actually getting the money rather they were “putting me in front of *other* interested investors but I would have to sell the startup to get the money”  Seriously?

Each time I turned down an accelerator or CFO (we are pre-revenues…) or some other inane offering, that investor would disappear.  For those supposedly fronting money, I would agree that if they brought money in, I would give them some fee and that STILL was not enough.  I had one guy, in fact, that was going to head up diligence on my company for his group and literally touted how great an opportunity IP Ghoster represented.  The next day he tried to sign me up to his company for ridiculous terms and, when I turned that supposedly separate offer down, he said he was suddenly too busy and that his group was no longer interested in diligence.

Am I missing something here?  Is my seed round investor some sort of holdout from a more honest time and are investor all now scam artists that force feed you their services in order to obtain investment dollars?  Look it is one thing to say “Here is some money, I want a seat on your board” (which I really like BTW) and another, I thought, to demand money for services in order to…get that money?  Isn’t that self-serving?

Help me out here as I thought investors had rules that precluded this services for money garbage but clearly I am mistaken.  I will say that my seed round guy was from the West Coast and these other “investors” are all East Coast – is that the difference?  Also, to be fair, I am talking angels here as I have actually talked to great VC guys on the East Coast but, being pre-revenue, getting VC money is not in the cards right now.

Is this “buy my services to get my money” investor the new norm?  What are your experiences?!?

Counter Intrusion

December 27, 2011 at 9:44 am | Posted in Investments | Leave a comment

I am currently building, what I think is, the first-ever proactive intrusion detection system for network defense. The intrusion detection systems I have seen to date all appear to rely on postmortem analyses of prior attacks to prevent against future intrusion efforts. This approach affords no defense against new
types of attacks and it seems that these systems are prohibitively expensive to obtain. Do you have such a system or are you a provider? Is this information accurate?

Once this board is going, I will explain why it is called Counter Intrusion as opposed to Anti Intrusion..

To see this board please go to http://www.quora.com/CounterIntrusion

Online Censorship

December 27, 2011 at 9:42 am | Posted in Investments | Leave a comment

Censorship is one of those ambiguous terms that can mean very different things. This board is focused on figuring out what definition affects people the most and what you are doing to overcome your form of online censorship.

To see this board visit:
http://www.quora.com/OnlineCensorship

Invisible VPN

December 27, 2011 at 9:28 am | Posted in Investments | Leave a comment

As people grow increasingly concerned with securing their communications online, both consumers and enterprises are turning to VPN solutions. These solutions are often expensive, static and easily blocked…would you agree?
This board is focused on finding out what companies and consumers think about current VPN solutions and what you want in an ideal VPN-like service – http://www.quora.com/InvisibleVPN

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