Wednesday, June 30, 2004

The devil in the details

We have a really good house: it fits our lifestyle really well, is well made and was a good deal.

But it is some of the details that are annoying. A couple of lightswitches are a little too far from where you would think they should be. And the island is about 6 inches too close to the ovens and it would be really nice to have a door to the entire bathroom, so we don't wake each other up at night.
There are alot of thigs done right in this house, a door at the top of the basement stairs, so falling down the stairs by accident is practically eliminated, the doors are full sized which make the house feel bigger as well as letting us move the crib and other furniture around very easily.

None of these things are major but it has brought home to me just how important the details are. It is the details that make a house useful and an aid to your lifestyle or just a place to store your stuff and sleep.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Apple's Tiger in your tank

Apple today announced Tiger their next generation OS and it is pretty interesting. There are all kinds of goodness in Tiger though it will be a long wait for it (first half 2005 according to MacCentral) but that is okay gives me time to save up.

Tiger Server has a set of great features for a SOHO business. Beyond mail serving and spam control, there is a blog server and iChat server and a cool sounding setup assistant to get you up and running right away. If you are starting a small business and need a server I would say this is the way to go unless you want to pay more for computer support.

This seems way easier to handle then all the work I had to do when I was doing netadmin work at BYU. These stories sure make me wonder why we inflict such pain on ourselves. At school I spent years doing troubleshooting and it was just terrible. I got tired of troubleshooting computers. I noticed however that the Macs generally did just fine, except about once a month and that usually was due to the server not letting the Macs onto the network anymore. This gave us about two days warning before the server would die for no apparent reason, but that was useful we could schedule a reboot and have everything run fine for another month.

I have Windows and Macs at home and have used Windows at work for all kinds of things. And I have got to say I have lost more productivity due to Windows then to even interruptions by spam. I recorded about how many minutes I lost to the computer for a week and it seemed like a typical week, and I was loosing about half an hour a day to waiting for the computer. It did not help that I had to reboot the computer about once a day, which took up the most time. I only have to reboot the Macs about once every two weeks, though I shut them down more often of late due to afternoon thunderstorms. I wouldn't say that Macs are perfect but they are so much better then Windows it just feels that way.

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Gardening today

Mowed the lawn before the first thunderstorm started and finished planting wooly Thyme by the sideway next to the Marigolds to provide a ground cover that can stand up to the occasional trodding on. Got them in just as thunderstorm #2 started to rain on us.

I don't mind mowing the lawn, it is a good time for me to listen to an audiobook and think. I realized that something our builder didn't do but could do, is combine forces with a landscaping company or two to make getting the lawns and things in go easier. A new house needs landscaping and the builder knows these people he could get a cut of what the landscaper makes because the referral would be worth quite a bit to the landscaper. The landscaper could then have repeat business from the homeowner by providing sprinkler blowouts, deals on annual flowers, and lawn care. Over the average home ownership of seven years that could build up to be quite a lot of money over a neighborhood or five.

Friday, June 25, 2004

Details that matter

This Slashdot post is fascinating.

This is a dentist that knows he has clients and not customers.

I had a dentist after the accident that was just awful, but it was the only one in town for my insurance. It was a dental factory. JiffyLube has better customer interaction. I will never go back there. It took them three tries to fit a crown even with the tech right there. Now I have had good dentists but they seem very rare if you stick with the insurance companies. Which makes sense the insurance companies want lowest cost providers but when it comes to my teeth I want something better.

I have learned though many hard experiences that the lowest bidder is often not the best choice. The lowest bidder seems to cut into the muscle of the product or service to be bought, making it far less useful to me. It is like their business model if we can get just one sale it is enough and since no one will bother coming back to us afterward we will try to get the most out of this customer the one time we have them in our clutches.

This is obviously wrong. Your relationship with a dentist is very intimate as it happens inside your body and happens regularly. You really want to do that stuff with someone you are comfortable with. This is not a customer relationship based on commodity pricing. This is a client relationship that is based more on trust then anything else.

I guess that may be part of one of the problems I see in engineering. Engineers have allowed themselves to be commoditized. Engineers are treated as migrant brains, "Oh, you've finally finish the project. Well, it is exactly what we asked for but not what we wanted. Goodbye."

I think we have become too specialized. We need to find the ways of making the projects what the clients need and want and help us value ourselves.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

The Best in the World

I was reading some of Jim Collins' "Good to Great" and something he talks about that fits in with yesterday is the concept of being the best in the world.

Looking at the Yellow Pages you quickly see that there are a lot of companies competing in the same spaces. There are a lot of companies that can't be best in the world because the product or service cannot extend beyond a certain distance from headquarters for example pizza delivery.

It now seems to me that it might be be enough to be the best in your area. Your area is limited by what you do, If you are a street vendor you need to be the best on the block, a pizza delivery place might have a 5 mile radius, for some workers it is a 50-75 mile radius they need to become the best in.

To me it seems that the more impersonal (or the least need of personal interaction with the product or service) and more specialized your product the larger your radius becomes.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

On Invention

"When you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it." (A A Milne)

Sometimes when trying to invent something the hardest part is finding something that no one else has invented yet. I find that my ideas are good ideas only they come too late, Often my ideas come out just as someone else with the same idea gets it to market. It seems to be about 2 weeks between the time I have an idea and when I see it advertised on TV. The longest was what I wanted as my senior project, a backup sensor for Mini-vans and SUVs, the teachers said it was impossible, a year and a half later it was introduced on Ford Explorers, I believe. My wife's father worked for Ford so it seemed to have been in development for nearly 5 years. Oh well, there is some quote about people who say things can't be done that would be appropriate right about here.

It doesn't happen only to me. We have all seen a bunch of summer movies that are almost identical. Recently on the Food Channel I have seen ads for things like Wonder Whisk and Pasta Pot or whatever they are called and there are two of each of these called by different names and there must be some differences between them since different companies make them. But I noticed sometimes the ads run consecutively and they are different.

Does it matter that an idea is unique. I am beginning to think that is not very important. Just look at the Yellow Pages, rare is the section that doesn't have at least a few competitors in each category and that is in just one or two small cities it gets worse in big cities. You need to be the same but different.

The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain.

It has rained for a week here in Colorado and the plants are loving it. The grass is greener and the weeds are taller. We got nearly an inch which is quite a bit for Colorado particularly for the last few years which have been drought years. We have been blessed with this rain and it is really helpful to everyone. Our town has not begun watering restrictions yet, though it seems as though most people are still using last years drought setting on their sprinkler systems.

As this is my first post to this blog it will not be the best but it is a start. I believe it to be important to have a presence on the Web and a blog seems to be an easy way to build content over time.