Saturday, February 28, 2004

Laptop update

Despite the overwhelming support for a Powerbook (6 comments left today lobbying heavily for a Powerbook, none recommending anything else), I ended up going with what I know: a ThinkPad. I liked how Ars Technica put it — the Powerbook is the supermodel. But I’m not a supermodel. (Bite your tongue.) Then again I don’t really see myself as the button-up three piece suit that purportedly gravitates to the ThinkPad.

Here’s what I do know: for the past 15 months, my laptop of choice was a ThinkPad T30. And I loved it — rock-solid, fast, and reliable. It had a few downsides — it wasn’t quite as thin or as light as you’d like, for starters. Well, the T40 solves that: it weighs just 4.5 pounds, just under 5 pounds with the DVD/CD-ROM drive. It’s faster than the T30 (though the clock speed is slower, apparently the Pentium M chip is significantly faster than the P4 I had in the T30; I’ve given up trying to understand this stuff).

The specs on the machine I bought:

  • 80 gig hard drive

  • 512 megs RAM

  • 1.6 ghz Pentium M

  • 14.1” display

  • WiFi built-in (the antenna is built into the case, dramatically improving connectivity)

  • Gigabit ethernet built in

  • WinXP Pro

And I got it at eBay for a steal. So I’m pretty happy. Will report back once I receive the goods.

Now… anyone out there who knows how to install a drop ceiling in a basement? I’m getting a bit antsy to finish the damn thing.

5 minutes to explain the Dean phenomenon

I have been invited to present to a high-powered group of Illinois Democrats on Monday morning. The group will include Governor Blagojevich — and the subject is how to energize the grassroots people who’ve felt out of touch with the Democratic Party. My role is, as someone closely involved with the Dean technology crew, to explain what we did and why it worked.

Here’s what I think were the keys to the Dean success (the barometer for purposes of this discussion is fundraising, not election results):

  • Give people a voice. The minute people think their voice is heard is the minute they feel empowered. Empowered individuals want to see their group succeed, and money was universally acknowledged as an important yardstick of the group’s success.

  • Talk back. Communication is about dialogue, not press releases. When campaigns engage their supporters, let their supporters (as well as their opponents) speak up, and most importantly, when they respond, the campaign appears more authentic. Authenticity breeds respect. And respect earns the people’s commitment.

  • Make supporters visible. By making individuals’ contributions visible (and the results of those contributions apparent), Dean was sharing the spotlight. When he said “this race is about you, not me”, he meant it. People who were either disenchanted with traditional politics, or cynical about their ability to make a difference to begin with, suddenly felt like they really could do something.

  • Be transparent. Transparency affected all levels of the campaign — from being open about fundraising goals (and their progress to those goals) to sharing works-in-progress on policy issues — and it made supporters feel like they were contributing to that progress instead of taking orders from above. Furthermore, as goals got within reach, supporters dug in and gave more (money, time, energy) to reach the goal.

  • Give up control. This is perhaps the scariest for those who’ve been around a while. Dean’s campaign didn’t try to control the message or the medium, instead choosing to let the grassroots run with it. This is where the barometer mentioned above is important: from a fundraising perspective, this lack of control gave each contributor a sense of ownership. It’s arguable that this lack of control is what contributed to the transition from a campaign to a movement, but that’s fodder for a different analysis.

So… I’ve got five minutes on Monday to boil this down and try to ensure that those in the crowd understand that it’s not about bits and bytes, not about keyboards and mousepads, but about energy. And enthusiasm. And passion. And I believe the bullets above highlight how the Dean campaign tapped each of those. I’d love to hear your thoughts. What have I missed?

New laptop

It’s time to buy a new laptop. What do you recommend?

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Legal social networking

My column ran last month and focused on the social networking craze and how it might take effect in the legal vertical. When I wrote the article I was still at Interface Software, the leading CRM company in the professional services space. Consequently, I was hesitant to overplay the CRM vs. social networking angle, preferring to leave the connection inferred rather than explicit — I hate being in the position of being seen as shilling for an employer.

Well, I’m not at Interface Software any more — and if I had to write that column over, I’d probably just want to lift most of this article from Line56, which focuses on how a DC law firm (Miller and Chevalier) used InterAction to uncover some pretty phenomenal revenue opportunities.

As is likely obvious from my column, I’m a big LinkedIn fan. But I still think it’s examples like the one from the Line56 article that demonstrate how InterAction has the upper hand if you’re trying to connect the dots from social networking to revenues.

(At least now I can say it without being accused of being biased, right?!)

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

An encyclopedia salesman worth listening to

Electablog likes John Edwards. And regardless of whether you agree with him or not, his reasons are both salient and pretty funny.

Who's got the power?

While you have to admire the cojones and sense of humor demonstrated by the Dean press corps in their choice of gifts to Howard Dean upon his exit from the race, it’s still enough to make you sad.

70 page contracts

I met Matt Homann at last year’s TechShow, and he suggested that he’d be starting a weblog at some point. Fortunately for us, he has — The [non]billable hour.

He caught a great article in the New York Times about the perils of hourly billing in the legal profession. This isn’t a new topic for readers of this blog — I’ve harped on this countless times before — but it’s nice to see the issue get treatment from the Grey Lady herself.

Nevertheless, I don’t think that the issue is clear-cut big firm vs. small firm. The hourly rate culture pervades firms of all sizes. It’s the businessmen within those firms — whether you’re a sole practitioner (like Matt), a partner at a mid-sized firm (like Ernie) or a partner at one of the truly huge firms (like John) — that the right questions get asked.

Moral of the story: when talking to a lawyer, assume that the lawyer is smarter than you are on the law. Don’t assume they’re smarter at business than you. Maybe, maybe not.

ROI on KM initiatives in law firms

Wow. John Alber won this year’s Champion of Technology Award at this month’s LegalTech. He has just published an article at LLRX titled Rethinking ROI: Managing Risks and Rewards in KM Initiatives — which, among other things, demonstrates why he was more than deserving of the award.

The article is a terrific look at how law firms should evaluate ROI in the context of expensive KM initiatives, and an equally good statement of why they most often don’t do so. If I were a vendor selling KM software into the legal market, I’d be worried if I couldn’t speak intelligently on these issues.

Other take-aways from this article:

  • I’m going to be way out-classed when John and I speak together at TechShow next month.

  • It’s incredibly exciting to see law firms thinking along these lines — and equally scary for anyone who’s relied on their ability to “bamboozle technology committees” (John’s words).

  • How many other former C-level execs are part of law firm management today? I know of just a handful, but I’m sure they’re out there. Clearly one of the things John (and others) bring to the table is an understanding of how businesses assess risks and investment; I don’t believe this approach is yet the norm among law firms, though clearly the trend is heading in the right direction.

Courts and technology

A friend of mine is running for clerk of the county court, and he’s looking for information about how courts have upgraded or improved their technology. We talked yesterday about RSS and Linux as two places to start, but I’m looking for any and all info I can funnel his way. (I’ve already suggested he contact Rory to talk about how the WV Supreme Court is modernizing.)

If you’ve got any ideas, links, or names of people to talk to, I’d love to hear them. Leave a comment. Thanks!

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

What's worse than Howard Dean withdrawing?

You know the worst part of Dean withdrawing? The thousands of Dean supporters all over the country who are now spamming every known e-mail address associated with the campaign with their own grand plans for how we can get Dean elected.

I admire persistence. And I appreciate the sincerity of the effort. But enough already!

If you’re not fortunate enough to be on one of these lists, here’s the Madlibs-type format:

Dear [Dean Supporter]:

Now is not the time to give up! While Gov. Dean has (withdrawn/stopped actively campaigning/decided to rest for a few weeks), we must (support the nominee/support Edwards/give up sleeping) to (beat Bush/send a message to the leadership/elect Dean Supreme High Commander of Earth). To do this, we must (support the nominee/destroy Kerry/show our love for Dean).

Please go to to sign up. We can’t waste another day!

I really don’t mean to insult anyone, but the e-mail traffic has been overwhelming. And it seems to me that all this energy spent setting up literally hundreds of groups will consume the majority of the energy of the individuals who might be able to make a real difference. (Disclaimer: Though I’ve been posting at Joe Trippi’s blog ChangeforAmerica, I’m not involved in the efforts to build a successor grassroots effort to the Dean campaign. I have also been in touch with a number of activists who are interested in harnessing the energy behind these groups.)

Bottom line: there’s a lot of energy out there looking to be active, stay involved and make a difference. Unfortunately it seems to me that quite a bit of that energy right now is being spent on being busy.

Friday, February 20, 2004

Get to know me!

In reading this fantastic account of a blogger’s one-on-one with President Bush, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of deja vu in Rex’s comments:

If George W. Bush could spend 25 minutes chatting with everybody in America like he did with me and five other folks today, he would win any election by a landslide. Despite the formality of the setting, he immediately put us all at ease with grace and hospitality. He was personable and seemed genuinely curious about each of us and our individual pionts of view on the subject we were there to discuss.

Read the whole post for the context. It’s a great post all around.

The deja vu I mentioned is this: I can vividly recall the feeling that after the ’92, ’96, and ’00 elections, when I said: “If only he’d done that while campaigning, he would have won.”

Several months after losing the ’92 election, President Bush did an interview with Katie Couric on the Today Show. He joked, showed a sense of resolve, and demonstrated a remarkable command of a wide variety of subjects. It was breath-taking — not so much because he knew his stuff (say what you will about Bush 41, but he was no dummy), but because the relaxed, confident man you saw on TV was orders of magnitude different than the defensive, out-of-touch one you saw on the campaign trail.

Ditto in ’96. Days after losing (maybe the day after?), Bob Dole went on Letterman. He wasn’t just funny, he was hysterical. (Letterman asked Dole about Clinton’s weight, to which Dole quipped, “I didn’t try to lift him, I just tried to beat him.”) I had the same reaction to Dole’s 180 that I did to Bush’s four years earlier: why didn’t we see this side of him during the campaign?

Then there was Al Gore in 2000. The first sign that Dole might have more to him than the media persona was his remarkably graceful concession speech. He bowed out, took his lumps, and moved on. He was not the image the media had given us, he was a leader. I have no doubt that a few votes would have flipped that night if they’d had the chance.

Which brings me to President Bush (43). Rex’s account of his meeting with the President is touching, in a way that makes you proud to be an American. Readers of this blog know I’m no fan of President Bush’s policies, but I do admire his leadership. This account just reinforces my belief that he has a good instinct for the one-on-one — a side of him that we almost never see. I’ll bet we see a lot more of these in the months to come. (What are the odds we’ll get lucky and another blogger will be invited?!)

(Extra credit to anyone who can provide the reference for the title of the post.)

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Cegelis for Congress

Had a great meeting tonight with the campaign manager for Christine Cegelis, who’s running against Henry Hyde this year. If you’ve got a couple bucks to spare and would like to give Mr. Hyde an early (!) retirement, help her out.

(And yes, we’ll be spiffing up their site soon.)

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

The Book on Bush - observations

I’m about 2/3 of the way through The Book on Bush and have a few observations. It is numbing in its litany of Bush administration miscues. Much of what’s in here you probably have read before — just not all in one place. And certainly not in the detail presented in the book.

To be honest, however, it’s overwhelming. It’s hard to imagine that we’re three years into this administration and only now — as the Democrats have finally started getting their act together with a consistent message — are the press really starting to hammer away at the evasions (link takes you to today’s White House press briefing; thanks to Josh for the find).

As Alterman and Green state their case, they follow a simple pattern. Start with Bush’s claims (culled from the campaign trail, State of the Union speeches, press conferences — all nine of them — or other public pronouncements) about his goals and agenda, then follow it with his actions. Finally, they’ll throw in quotes from any number of sources about the practical impact of these actions, often to add color to the impact and show you that it’s not just Alterman and Green foaming at the mouth over this issue.

What packs the most punch are when those statements or disagreeing with Bush are from Bush supporters. For example:

When Bush, in 2003 announced the easing of the “New Source Review” standards under the EPA (allowing the country’s oldest 17,000 power plants to continue to operate without meeting emissions standards, the New York Daily News reacted: “The rule change is a direct assault on the environment… Let’s at least be honest about it, Mr. President. Admit that the EPA now stands for the Environmental Pollution Agency.” (The NY Daily News endorsed Bush in 2000.)

It’s an election year. Bush’s coat-tails are shrinking (and his poll numbers are dropping). Chandler’s win in Kentucky yesterday is another data point. What do you want to bet there will be plenty of these critiques of the president by those in his own party eager to curry favor with voters?

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Change for America

For those who are interested, I’ll be posting at, the blog Joe Trippi set up last week. Many thanks to Joe for the invite, and please feel free to stop by and leave a comment or two.

(Yes, we will be sprucing the site up a bit…)

Will Saletan on the horse race

Will Saletan says he’d rather be Kerry tonight. I’m not so sure I draw that conclusion. Everything fueling Kerry’s rise has been about the momentum. Momentum going into the Iowa caucus. Momentum coming out of Iowa. Momentum built from two wins. Then four. And so on.

If Saletan’s analysis is right, then Edwards’s strength among independents and cross-over Republicans will erode Kerry’s “electability” aura. And then my delegate math starts to get awfully lopsided in Edwards’ favor.

Delegate update, prediction

As of this evening, the top three candidates (by delegates) are:

  • Kerry: 608

  • Dean: 201

  • Edwards: 190

Of Dean’s 201 delegates, I count at least 50 that are super delegates (who can change their vote at any time).

Moving forward to Super Tuesday, over 1100 delegates are up for grabs. It appears that Dean is mothballing the campaing — perhaps not pulling out completely, but at least not actively seeking the nomination, which means we’ll get the two man race Edwards has been asking for. Let’s assume that Kerry and Edwards continue at a 40/40 pace. If no other candidates hit the 15% threshold (at this point, a likely scenario), then Kerry and Edwards split the remaining delegates as well. In other words, Super Tuesday is a wash.

I’m also going to assume (without any grounds for doing so) that Dean’s super-delegates will go to Edwards in larger numbers than Kerry.

Where this leaves us? Without touching Dean’s 150 or so “earned” delegates, Kerry would be between 1100 and 1200, and Edwards would be at around 800.

But it gets more interesting when you realize that California and New York alone represent more than half of the Super Tuesday delegates up for grabs. If Edwards were able to tip the balance, say to 60/40 by focusing the majority of his energy in those states, then suddenly Kerry drops to around 1000 and Edwards is at 900. And then there are those 150 Dean delegates…

This is all hypothetical at this point. But the way I read tonight’s results:

  • Edwards surge was beyond surprising, and will provide much of the fodder for tomorrow’s papers and pundits.

  • Kerry’s momentum has hit a bump.

  • It’s now a two man race, and if anything, Super Tuesday offers the very real possibility of making the race less clear.

Bottom line? There’s a reason John Edwards was smiling broadly during that interview with Chris Matthews on MSNBC. (And no, it wasn’t just Matthew’s hysterical “nut cutting” slip when talking to Edwards that had him smiling.)

Monday, February 16, 2004

Best. Newsletter. Ever.

I should really file this under humor, but that wouldn’t do justice to Clock Tower Law Group’s latest newsletter. (For those that don’t know, Erik Heels’s law firm has grown and is now known as Clock Tower Law Group.) In his newsletter he conveys more creative, informative news than I’ve seen in any five newsletters combined. And he does it in a way that makes you laugh (dramatically increasing the odds, by the way, that you’ll remember what he says).

You should read the firm’s blog, but you should also sign up for LawLawLaw (the firm’s newsletter) which goes out periodically. You’ll learn plenty about practical ways you can use IP law to protect and benefit your business.

And you’ll laugh. (This and this in particular made me laugh out loud.)

How Kerry came back

I found this article at the Philadelphia Inquirer an interesting analysis of how Kerry’s Iowa-or-bust strategy came to be interesting. I was at the Jefferson Jackson Dinner in Des Moines that is referenced in the article, and though I took some flak (putting it mildly) from some in the Kerry camp for understating Kerry’s numbers, I was amazed at the remarkable organization of the supporters and the coordination of Kerry’s speech with some key applause lines. (Seems that the Inquirer’s version of events — that it was the speech itself that resonated — differs a bit with what I recalled at the time, but that’s a minor detail.)

Other than the impressive showing by the Dean organization at the JJ Dinner, I felt then that the other story to the night was Kerry’s organization. For a campaign that was supposedly on the ropes, they came to win. It showed, and it was clearly indicative of what they would build to a dramatic victory in January.


Sunday, February 15, 2004

No spin zone

Many thanks to a former co-worker, who sent me a “keep in touch” gift the other day: a Bill O’Reilly “No Spin Zone” coffee mug. When we’d be on the road together, this guy and I would regularly have a good go at each other. It was always good for a laugh.

So I laughed pretty hard when I unwrapped the O’Reilly mug. As I e-mailed back to my friend, this is now my favorite mug: each morning I get to pour scalding hot coffee on Bill O’Reilly’s head, and then watch as the steam comes up out of the mug — looking not unlike the hot air that regularly comes out of O’Reilly’s mouth.

Matty Large

Mathew Gross, the brains behind the Dean campaign blog as well as numerous other Internet programs, has left the campaign and is blogging at his own site. Mathew became a good friend of mine during the campaign (when I visited Burlington I slept on his couch) and I respect what he built, and perhaps more importantly, how he built it. With marching orders from Joe Trippi, Mathew built a group of people who are dedicated, passionate, and smart. With their creativity, their remarkable commitment to listening to the grassroots, and their belief that their jobs were never done, they set a high bar for other campaigns to match in their use of technology.

When Mathew says

I believe the Dean campaign will be looked on as a seminal moment in American politics. The Dean campaign marks the beginning of the end of the broadcast age in politics, and a change toward more interactive and decentralized campaigning. And the change is going to be even more rapid from here.

I think he’s right. But I think there’s an important piece that Mathew, who’s a pretty humble guy, overlooks. The reason for why they did what they did (and why it succeeded so wildly) — is that they, like Dean himself, adamantly believed that this campaign was about us, not them. And as a result, they built out tools and sites that repeatedly shined a light on the 600,000+ Americans who had hope that they could make a difference. And Mathew and his team deserve a lot of credit for that commitment — at any point during the run-up last year, it could have easily become about them, and what the campaign could do for them. It never did, and that’s to their credit.

I’m proud to have been a small part of what they built. And most of all, I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to get to know Mathew, Zephyr, Nicco, Joe, Jim, Clay, Zack, Bobby, Garrett, and countless others in Burlington who put their lives on hold to chip in wherever they could.

(As for the title of this post? It goes back a number of months, when Matt and I were IM’ing back and forth — he’d been interviewed by a German newspaper, and when we ran the article through one of the online translator sites, he became “Matthew Large”, which we decided was a good start for his “street” name…)

Saturday, February 14, 2004

The Book on Bush

Just got a review copy of The Book on Bush from Viking, and started reading it last night. I’ll post my observations in the next few days.

Vote Ro

Over at Joe Trippi’s Change for America, he writes

I think it is great to think about running good people seeking change at the local level — but I also think once we find someone at the local level we want to put out a national alert to all who care about our cause and get that candidate the support they need to beat this system.

Well, one of those people is Ro Khanna, running for Congress in my old home district in California (the 12th district). Ro is young, a summa cum laude graduate from U. Chicago and Yale Law, and is trying to unseat a 12-term incumbent Democrat who was a co-sponsor in Congress for Bush’s war resolution in Iraq. A number of good friends are working on his campaign, and if you’re in the 12th, get involved. If you’re not, follow Joe’s advice and send Ro a little money. Doesn’t have to be much. But every bit will help get a young, bright, progressive individual in Congress who can stand up for what’s right.

Out of fairness, you’re welcome to visit Lantos’s voting record to do your own homework.

Trippi's back online

Joe Trippi (former Dean campaign manager) is back on the Net, posting to his very own blog at Change for America.

Stay tuned.

Friday, February 13, 2004

Hawash sentenced

Though there’s been nowhere near the blog coverage of his sentencing, you may recall that last April Mike Hawash, a naturalized American citizen and former Intel engineer, was arrested on terrorism charges. At the time, many (myself included) commented on the case and remarked on the Kafka-esque notions of a citizen being arrested (but not charged) in a terrorist conspiracy when all he’d done was give some money to a charity.

Well, it turns out that isn’t all he did. Last week he was sentenced to 7 years in prison for, among other things, traveling to China with five other suspected terrorists in an admitted attempt to enter Afghanistan to aid the Taliban during our war in Arghanistan.

The sentencing was a result of a guilty plea Hawash entered back in August. Given the very broad coverage this got last spring, when we were all convinced that Hawash’s arrest (and subsequent failure to file charges for nearly a month) was just one more example of a government gone awry in abusing the Patriot Act, it’s disappointing (but not surprising) that his sentencing hasn’t received similarly broad coverage in the blogosphere. While I have no kind words for the Patriot Act in general, this at least appears to be a case where the government got it right, and a guy who was trying to aid an enemy was caught, pled guilty and sentenced.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Know when to ask...

As I’ve tried to get my bearings with Linux (my first extended foray with Linux in over 5 years), I’ve run into countless situations where I was clueless not only to the fix to the problem, but to what exactly the problem itself was.

For instance: I’m using KDE as my Linux desktop (tip #1 for Windows users who have never used Linux: Linux on its own is a command line interface operating system, and Linux has at least two different graphical user interfaces — KDE and Gnome). I’m using Ximian Evolution as my e-mail client, which on the whole is a very capable Outlook clone that (sometimes) even syncs with my Treo but relies on some files from Gnome, not KDE (don’t ask).

In any event, periodically when I click on the Evolution icon on my desktop, nothing happens. My default response in these circumstances is to go to Google and do my best Sling Blade impression: “ximian evolution click nothing” (uh huh, uh huh) to see if someone else phrased their question in sort of the same way. (Here’s a hint in Linux: if you’re having problems with a program, try launching it from the command line. Launch your terminal program — also referred to as a console — and type in the program name at the cursor. Of course, sometimes this won’t work, so sometimes you have to navigate to the directory where the program is located. And sometimes typing in the filename there won’t work either — you have to then type ./filename for it to work. I’m not sure why.)

At this point, you descend into any number of Linux user groups, where I’m fairly certain many of them are in English but most of them start out with “simple” answers to these questions by suggesting: “just add path to your /lib/conf/blah_blah_blah and then remove the whatchamacallit in gconfd”. (It’s even better if you can imagine all of this being spoken by Nick Burns.)


Which is what made my smile when I read this over at Adina Levin’s weblog today:

Therefore, if you have a question, you must read the man pages, scour google for diagnostic phrases, spelunk through code, and test your hypothesis. If you still haven’t found the answer to your question after two hours, three hours, eight hours… then you may ask the wizard who may know the answer off the top of his head.

Otherwise, you risk scathing criticism, and a permanent deduction of 20 points from your interlocutor’s estimate of your IQ.

I ran into this when I was having problems getting Linux to communicate with my print server (we use an HP all-in-one printer/fax/scanner/copier that talks to our network via ethernet). Nothing I could find on the net could explain getting it to work. I installed software from HP that supposedly would fix the problem — not only didn’t that work, but now it won’t start (which it cheerfully tells me every time I boot up) and I can’t uninstall it. And no Google query could explain to me why my wife’s WinXP computer could easily send print jobs to the printer while my Linux box couldn’t do squat.

Until I happened to gripe about this in an IM session with Gabe, who instantly responded: “Oh, that’s easy. Just type ‘ifconfig eth0:0 netmask’ at the command line while logged in as root.” (Fortunately, Gabe qualifies as one of the “wizards” Adina mentioned who just knew the answer off the top of his head.) For the rest of us mortals, you can stare at that answer as long as you want. It makes no sense. Seriously.

I ran into it again on a mailing list I subscribed to to try and help troubleshoot some problems I was having with Ximian. A newbie (not me, really) asked a question about URLs not working in e-mails. To which the first reply was: “What version of the Linux kernel are you using? Did you install from the RPMs? What Linux distribution do you have? Which version? What’s your desktop?” This was followed by a rather curt suggestion that next time the questioner remember to provide all this detail up front.

Now those are all valid questions. But the dismissive tone of the response, coupled with the lack of interest in providing an answer (which, two e-mails later, he revealed and could have easily done on the first go-around), combine to massively discourage newbies from asking about things they don’t already know. (Which is, of course, a tad circular.)

The vast universe of things I don’t already know is really rather overwhelming. But in general I’m eager to learn, and in many cases, actually can figure a thing out once in a while. When the privilege of asking the question carries such a tremendous burden of prior effort, well, it makes you wonder whether that effort is really worth it. Because you’re still going to come up well short in the total hours invested category next to some of the real vets.

So, I’m with Adina. Let us ask our damn questions. Let us learn. Try not to hassle us when we ask something that might already have been answered somewhere else. Especially as concerns Linux, chances are we already know a thing or two to get to the point that we’ve got a functional desktop.

Having said all of this (and yes, I do feel a bit better now that I’ve vented, thank you for asking) — Adina pointed to Eric Raymond’s How to ask smart questions — which is definitely worth a read (and even a bit funny).


(And yes, I’m positive I’ll get any number of comments from Linux pros telling me where I’ve gone wrong. Believe me when I tell you, I welcome the instruction. Really. Just want to know how to make this thing work.)

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Firebird reborn as Firefox

Just upgraded my browser to the browser formerly known as Firebird (and now known as Firefox). It’s at version .8, and promises lots of bug fixes, minor UI enhancements, etc.

I’m on a pretty creaky Linux box, and I have to say that .8 is noticeably faster than .7 was. Beyond that, I’ve not noticed any major differences. (Not that I needed any — I remain convinced that Firebird/Firefox is a superior browser in almost every way.)

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Job search, update

I promised an update back on Saturday, so here goes. I’ve corresponded with some of you directly (and if I haven’t done so yet, don’t take it personally!) in the past week or so, but just in case you haven’t heard: I’m no longer at Interface Software. Best way to reach me is by e-mail at My cell phone (if you had that number) hasn’t changed either.

I’m in the process of deciding where to go next. Though I’m not looking to relocate (we’re currently in suburban Chicago), I’ve worked remotely in the past and would actually enjoy doing it again. By all means, if you’d like to hire me, drop me a line! Seriously though, I’m not ruling anything out right now. I’m taking advantage of this break to give some thought to what I should be doing, and the first step in that process is talking to as many folks out there as possible who might have some ideas to share. (If you’d like a more complete view of my background, my profile at LinkedIn should give you a good idea of what I’ve done, and what my background is.)

I’m constantly amazed by the variety and number of people who read this weblog on a regular basis. I’m looking forward to hearing from as many of you as possible in the next week or two. I’m sure you’re all a lot more creative than I am…

In other news, being home the past few weeks has turned out to be a blessing. We’ve had not one but two trips to the hospital (one for my son, who had another seizure, and one for my wife, who is fortunately doing fine now) in the past couple weeks. The time between jobs (coupled with Dean’s precipitous decline, more on that in a separate post) has given me the free time needed to finally, really, finish the $%*&!@ basement project that I’m embarassed to say I started, oh, a year ago. With any luck, I’ll have the rest of the drywall up within the week.

Like I said on Saturday — there’s a lot going on here. I’ll provide updates as they’re available. In the meantime, I look forward to hearing from you.

Saturday, February 7, 2004

Out of touch...

Howdy. There’s been a lot going on in the real world for me the last few weeks, leading to a much lighter schedule of blogging than I’d like. I’ll be posting more next week, and will follow with an update of what I’ve been up to.

Monday, February 2, 2004

Dean takes responsibility

I thought Dean did a great job on Meet the Press yesterday — much more relaxed than he was in June, much more in command of the issues (and willing to tell Russert when he was off-base). I still see a Dean nomination as a long-shot at this point (side note to Mike at TopDog04 — no, I’ve not lost faith. Just realistically assessing where we stand in light of recent developments. Still very committed to Dean, and I still think he’s the best Democrat to challenge President Bush in November.) but I’m quite glad to see Dean stepping up and demonstrating real leadership — something that, as the campaign focused increasingly inward in December and January, was in short supply.

If you didn’t watch MTP, you can also read this interview with Salon where Dean shows this in action (the quote is from page 2 of the interview):

Did Trippi tell you to basically let it rip before you walked out onto the stage in Iowa for the so-called I Have a Scream speech?

Sure, but I’m not going to blame Joe Trippi. One thing about this campaign stuff and Joe Trippi and all that: I do not blame him for one thing that went wrong in the campaign. The reason is, actually what drove Joe crazy, is I want to know everything, and I want everything explained to me, and I sign off on all the final decisions. I have not one piece of ill will about spending too much money. I OK’d every major strategic decision and you can put the blame at my feet for anything going wrong.

Another interesting comment Dean made on MTP yesterday, which I also liked. Russert asked Dean to explain his losses in Iowa and New Hampshire, and Dean responded that in part, it was people didn’t get to know him. That he’d spent so much time focusing on issues (and President Bush, for that matter) that he failed to present a clear picture of who he is. While there’s undoubtedly some spin involved here, I think there’s some truth to this. Dean is notoriously closed, and hasn’t willingly talked about his background, family or other non-political details. While I still don’t get the fascination with the Judy-Dean-will-she-or-won’t-she-stand-at-a-podium nonsense, I think there’s something to the perception that voters needed a more complete idea of who Dean was and is.

Whether the campaign can get that message out quickly enough remains to be seen. But I think they’re on the right track.

Sunday, February 1, 2004

A brokered convention?

Going back several months, the conventional wisdom was that having too many Democrats in the race would just cause them to bloody each other up, leaving them winded and broke and unable to fight President Bush’s war chest.

But a new reality is emerging: because the race is contested, because of the remarkable twists and turns of the past few weeks, the Democrats are getting vastly more press than the Bush administration. Result? Bush’s numbers are among the lowest of his presidency, his approval rating is bottoming out, and a hypothetical Democrat head-to-head against Bush is a dead heat.

Let’s carry this one step further: what of Bush’s presumed money advantage? The popular assumption was that Bush, once the Democratic nominee emerges, would blitz that nominee with tens of millions of dollars that the nominee couldn’t counter. Well, what if it does turn out to be a brokered convention? What if there isn’t a nominee until July? Bush doesn’t get to fight one nominee, he has to fight three, or four, or even five.

Could it be that a brokered convention is the Democratic Party’s best chance for a fair fight in November?