Previous month:
November 2005
Next month:
January 2006

6 posts from December 2005

Will the Last Person Using Typepad Please Turn Out the Lights?

Yikes!  I've had my share of problems with the Typepad platform but today's situation was ridiculous!  As near as I can tell, their server must have blown up overnight and was down most of the day.  Their status page said they reposted backup content from a couple of days ago which meant everyone's Typepad blog was a bit stale.  Once the editing tools became available again tonight all bloggers were asked to manually republish their content.  Nice.

OK, maybe I picked the wrong day to forward a link to a recent post to several friends and business colleagues.  Or maybe I'm just paying for a blogging service that's less reliable than the other (free!) blogging service (blogger.com) that houses my other sports-related blog.  Did I mention blogger.com is  free and almost always seems to be up and running fine?  And it's free...

I know it's a hassle to switch URL's and all, but I think I've hit the limit on Typepad outages.  My one-year subscription is up in a couple of months and I think they've forced my hand.  I'll wait it out but please remind me to switch as we get closer to February.  Then again, I'm sure Typepad's periodic crashes will be a nice reminder for me...


Geeks On Call – 5-Minute Fixes

The best part of the job is definitely when you get to see the finished results. A few days ago I received my sample copies of a new series and publishing alliance we recently launched. The books are called …5-Minute Fixes and they’re the result of a partnership we signed with Geeks On Call, the on-site service organization with the PT Cruisers.

If you’re not familiar with Geeks On Call be sure to check them out. Although there are a number of these on-site support and repair companies out there, these guys are quickly developing a reputation as the best of the bunch. They’re also growing at a record pace, as evidenced by their ranking (#48) in Entrepreneur Magazine’s list of the Fastest Growing Franchises.

The beauty of this relationship is that Wiley knows book publishing, of course, but Geeks On Call has an incredibly rich knowledgebase of the most common types of problems users run into. I don’t think there’s a better way to construct a short, highly targeted troubleshooting guide.

The first four Geeks on Call titles are hot off the presses:

Windows XP: 5-Minute Fixes

PC's: 5-Minute Fixes

Wireless Networking: 5-Minute Fixes

Security & Privacy: 5-Minute Fixes

My thanks to Geeks on Call CEO Richard Cole and Chief Marketing Officer Taylor Mayo for all your support throughout this launch. I’d also like to thank the wonderful team at Wiley that pulled everything together: Carol Long, Tom Dinse and David Mayhew.


Moving from Print to Digital

Despite my seemingly endless search for a good online content distribution model, I have to admit that I’ve been slow to move my own reading from print to digital. As I’ll mention in a bit later, however, ESPN (of all things!) is helping me switch.

I scan/read through a lot of computer/tech trade magazines. That’s only part of the line-up, however. Here’s what I tend to look at on a regular basis:

InfoWorld, eWeek, ComputerWorld, InformationWeek, BusinessWeek, Time, FastCompany, Business 2.0, PC Magazine, PC World, mental floss, Discover, Wired, Popular Science, Sports Illustrated and ESPN The Magazine

I used to get most of my tech news from InfoWorld and ComputerWorld. Like most tech magazines, the issues today are a fraction of the size they were in the late ‘90’s. As a result, I tend to use cnet’s news.com and Google News to get more of my tech news these days. If you haven’t tried Google News, you need to. I love the fact that I can configure it to always be on the lookout for the latest stories on whatever keywords I give it.

I’m concerned that switching more to an online reading approach is going to narrow my focus too much, causing me to miss out on some of the things I might stumble across in a print magazine. My online reading experience is fairly common: I search for a phrase and read about the results. This doesn’t lend itself to the exploration into completely unrelated topics you might find yourself jumping to in a magazine. So although approximately 90% of my day-to-day reading activity is done via print, I’m not sure I’d ever be happy with a reversed model where 90% of my reading is done online.

By the way, is anyone familiar with a search/news service that offers a feature similar to Amazon’s “Customers who viewed this also viewed…”, but from a linkage/clickthru point of view? For example, one of my Google News search items is “Windows Vista”. Google does a fine job giving me a list of related stories sorted either by relevance or date. But what about having a third sort option: “by clickthru”, where the links at the top are the ones most clicked on by those who searched before you? Yes, Google does a nice job of figuring out the most relevant links for my search phrase, but I’d also like to know which links real people found to be the most valuable. Maybe this is part of the much more complex “relevance” algorithm, but I’d like to see it separated as a option all its own.

I’d also like to see a separate box in the results, perhaps set off to the side, entitled “Readers who viewed this also viewed…” along with a list of links to other popular sites/stories, many of which might have nothing to do with Windows Vista. This last piece would help me better understand what other topics and articles Windows Vista fans are interested in. It would probably also go a long way in helping me avoid that overly narrow focus I mentioned above.

So how in the world is ESPN helping push me more away from the print side to the online side? Well, after being a loyal print subscriber for the past several years, my service was abruptly discontinued when I missed the renewal payment deadline. I figure I’ve got too much to read already and I shouldn’t bother with the renewal now that they’ve cut me off. But, I couldn’t resist giving them some friendly advice: The next time a regular customer with a long track record of on time payments misses a renewal deadline, they might want to send one last, free copy along with a note saying something like, “Hey, we know you’re busy and you love our magazine. We’re giving you an extra one-issue grace period to pay us for your renewal.” Heck, I would have picked up the phone that day and given them my credit card number. Instead I now feel like I’ve been tossed out into the street. At least I’ve still got my Sports Illustrated subscription to keep me happy in the offline world.


Sirius Is a Joke

Earlier this year I took a test drive with the XM2Go satellite radio device. I returned the system the next day due to the fact that it didn’t perform as promised. For a few weeks now I’ve been reading up on the competing Sirius S50 unit. It’s a very nice package and offers the capability to store 50 hours of broadcast recordings as well as your own MP3’s. Heck, if I put enough recorded songs/shows on there I might not even have to take my MP3 player on the road. The S50 is kind of pricey ($330 before $50 rebate), but I figured it would be worth the investment. Again, I was wrong…

The more I dig into the S50 the worse it gets. Despite paying a lot more for the hardware, the S50 doesn’t come with all the required accessories that the XM2Go box includes. The biggest problem: The RIAA has apparently intervened and prevents you from recording more than one song at a time. I don’t know about you, but I’m not going to sit there for several hours pressing “Record” just so I can capture enough songs for replay on a coast-to-coast flight.

Here’s the funny part… Enough time has now passed since I tried the XM2Go system that the price has dropped and is now much more attractive, flaws and all. I can get an XM2Go for $150 after $50 rebate. Plus, the XM system comes with all the various antennas you need for home, office and car – Sirius forces you to pay an additional $100 for a home docking/antenna system. XM also now apparently offers a much smaller and powerful handheld antenna for more portable uses. I figure even if I can’t use it walking around town, it’s now cheap enough to justify for use at home, office and in my car.

One way or another, I’m determined to completely walk away from the limited choice of local stations. It looks like XM will be the winner after all.


Bookscan -- Week Ending 12/4/05

Here’s a breakdown of the top 750 titles in the computer/tech category for the most recent week:

1. Pearson/Penguin            29%
1. Wiley                             29%
3. O’Reilly                          19%
4. Microsoft Press              10%
5. Osborne/McGraw-Hill        4%

(I hope all my Pearson friends will notice that I listed them first despite the fact that the Pearson and Wiley market share percentages are virtually identical.)

Comparing that to my last Bookscan post for the week ending 10/30, Pearson is down 1 point, Wiley is flat, O’Reilly is up 1 point, Microsoft Press is down 2 points and Osborne/McGraw Hill is down 1 point.

Out of the top 20 titles for the week, Pearson and Wiley both had 6, O’Reilly had 5 and Microsoft Press had 3.

Now that we’re in the midst of the holiday season, the topic breakdown tends to shift around a bit. Office topics were dominant in several of the earlier weeks – this time there are only 3 Office titles (including various Office applications) in the top 20.

The #1 topic by title count in the top 20? Would you believe…Programming? I guess the latest books on Ajax and ASP are popular stocking stuffers. Speaking of ASP, I’m thrilled to see our own Professional ASP.NET 2 comes in strong in the #15 position this week. By the way, that performance has been achieved without the benefit of an endcap placement, “30% off” sale or any other special deal. Congratulations to the author team led by Bill Evjen and WROX editor Jim Minatel.