Robert’s Ramblings

Robert Alonso’s Thoughts on Technology and More…

Archive for June, 2008

June-30-08

FL!P

Posted by Robert Alonso under Advice, Books, Opinions

With this subtitle: “How to Turn Everything You Know on Its Head–and Succeed Beyond Your Wildest Imaginings” how could you not buy this book? I certainly could not resist the urge to buy Peter Sheahan’s book. FL!P is an easy-to-read business book that encourages you to think of your business in a different way. If this happens, then the author has accomplished his goal and you have flipped.

The author chides the reader into thinking counterintuitively and into moving forward with action. He believes that today’s business environment requires that you do things Fast, Good, Cheap and then Add Something Extra. He warns readers of the dangers of complacency in the new global economy and also explains the dangers that the Internet has created for businesses that do not perform well. For example, if you did not satisfy a customer in the past, you could suffer from bad word of mouth that could affect ten or more people. With the Internet, the same dissatisfied customer could post information about his experience on a blog and affect the opinion of hundreds or thousands of people. I believe what Mr. Sheahan writes completely because I have posted comments on this blog about unsatisfactory experiences with preferredphoto.com and with the Maestro 4250 GPS and know that dozens of Google searches bring dozens of readers to those experiences every week.

Like most business books, some of the advice is obvious. For example, the book has a chapter on the fact that business is personal. This is obvious to anyone who has owned or managed a business. People do business with people they know and trust. Mr. Sheahan makes the point that one way to compete with the threat of cheaper global labor is to stress the fact that you are local and trustworthy. He uses as an example a laser eye surgery that he underwent. He had the choice of having it done for a fraction of the cost overseas, but chose a local doctor after the doctor explained to him that Sheahan’s condition meant something to the doctor and would affect him if he did not do it right. He told him that in a foreign country, the doctor would not be worried about his reputation or about any malpractice.

I recommend “FL!P” because it is a good and entertaining read, because it inspired me to action and because it is well researched. Buy a copy and read it, you won’t regret it.

You can get FL!P here.

Robert Alonso
Alonso Consulting, Inc.

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June-5-08

Skype

Posted by Robert Alonso under Advice, Opinions, Service, Software

I have been hearing about Skype for a couple of years now. However, I never felt inclined to try it out this wildly popular Internet phone service. I figured there were already so many ways to reach me that what I needed was one less way instead of one more. Recently, a very specific need made me become adventurous and try it. I’ll try to tell you about each step of my experience.

Downloading and Installation

The first thing I did was search for "Skype" on Google and found that the first listing is the web site for Skype. The Google listing is very well organized and has links to all the areas of the Skype web site that you might want to visit. I went right to the download page, but then decided to do some reading before actually downloading and installing the software. After a few page reads, I decided that it was alright to download this software. It took a few minutes to download. I chose to run it directly after the download. The install process was smooth and took only a few minutes.

Configuring Skype

After the install completed, the Skype software requires that you choose a user name and give it an e-mail account and password. This took me a little longer than is probably usual because I am very picky about user names and do not like names like "robertalonso56897." Since every variation of my name was taken, I settled for "alonso.consulting." (Now, readers of this blog have another way to reach me…)

Test Call and Contacts

Skype automatically loaded my contacts from my Outlook. This was something that I found a little disconcerting. I still don’t know if this information resides on my local machine only or if they uploaded it somewhere. I am very leery of cloud computing when it comes to my contacts and financial data. I then tried a test call to an automated system that Skype provides and discovered that my microphone was not working properly. Once that problem was fixed I was ready to call people.

Calling People

You can call people on Skype by finding their listing in the directory. You can search by name, Skype name or e-mail address. Once you have found someone you know, you add them to your contacts and that person is notified that you are attempting to add them. They can accept or decline you. Once they accept you, you can click on that person’s name in the Contacts tab and the Skype software literally rings on their end. When they answer, you can talk as if your were on a phone, you can watch each other if you have a web cam and you can also text message and send files to each other. If you become a big user of the service, you can buy a Skype certified headset that includes a microphone for about $29.

After my initial calls from my PC, I downloaded the software for my Smartphone and was pleasantly surprised to see it work through my phone’s data plan. That is what I call very cool.

Although I did not try it, you can also call contacts that are not on Skype. You need to pay to call land or cell lines, but the fee is very reasonable at $.021 per minute.

Final Thoughts

I recommend this service because it is unobtrusive, works reasonably well and is mostly free. I do have a warning for you if you decide to use it: Skype’s terms of use allows them to monitor your conversations, web video and text messages as well as your contact relationships for the purposes of improving the service and providing you with goods and services that you might want to purchase. I found that more than a little creepy–so think about it before using the service. You should also note that the service is owned by eBay.

Robert Alonso
Alonso Consulting, Inc.

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