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Starbucks begins to serve beer and wine as test

by Benjamin Anderson 17. July 2009 15:31

Starbucks is adding beer and wine to their menu at a test site.  “15th Ave. Coffee and Tea inspired by Starbucks” will serve beer and wine along with Starbucks’ normal coffee and tea menu.

Some might think this is a horrible idea and a step in the wrong direction for the coffee company.  But the decision will probably be the first thing to drastically re-vamp the company during the recession slump and the drag in sales.  Starbucks has been a social “hub” for a while where people meet for business, social meet-ups and teen hang-outs, so the introduction of the alcohol with business and teen meet-ups has some people uneasy with the possibility.  The possibility of creating an environment for both early morning and afternoon business as well as the post-business hangouts.  The happy hour crowd will find a possibility in Starbucks as an alternative to restaurant bars, which don’t provide as comfortable environments for just hanging out and letting go.

Original story in USA Today.

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Review: Collapse of Distinction by Scott McKain

by Benjamin Anderson 15. July 2009 16:43

“Collapse of Distinction” is a book about means of defining and distinguishing yourself and your business among the millions of other businesses and people on planet.  In an ever increasing global market and competitive market we have make our businesses stand out using even the slightest differences.

The book starts off good and draws you in, but throughout the book I continued to expect McKain to complete a sentence or finish a story, but by the time I reached the end of the book I still had that feeling.  The book does not deliver.  Too many times the examples and stories used felt more like distractions rather than stepping stones, and the reader never reaches the point of actually learning anything.  Reading the cover and summary for the book have the same effectiveness as the entire book does is communicating the fact that there has to be differences to have distinction.

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Categories: book review

Cloud Communities, Part 3

by Benjamin Anderson 24. June 2009 21:31

This week, while I was studying cloud computing platforms and the current definitions for the new buzz words, I started thinking about how the new terms translate to the new social and relational paradigms.  Cloud Computing is being used in a broader sense to describe virtualization of computer resources and systems.   Our new online social interactions have produced a virtualization of our relationships.  There are both benefits and scary repercussions to our behavior and the transition to these Cloud Communities.

As a result, “Cloud Communities” is getting a more specific definition.  Cloud Communities aren’t just communities formed on the internet, they are communities formed around an individual on the internet.  Each person forms, drafts and manages their own Cloud Community around them.  These community is completely free-form and free-floating.  It is constantly changing.  It is constantly abuzz.

For anyone involved in computers for 15 or more years, the online communities and connections with strangers isn’t a new thing.  Electronic Bulletin Board Systems (BBSs) were used for electronic communities before the Internet and World Wide Web were wildly available.  These systems allowed individuals with similar interests to gather and commune in an electronic gathering place.  Most of the communication was done through forum posts on the BBSs.  Through those conversations and means the computer “nerds” formed relationships with perfect strangers.  Today, everyone is doing similar things by connecting with strangers through Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and the thousands of other niche networks available on our cell phones, computers and entertainment devices.  It has become a mainstream activity for perfectly disconnected strangers to cross paths in these networks and form relationships.  The “strange” and weird relationships of the BBSs have become perfectly accepted in today’s culture and completely invaded our everyday life.

Along with the completely new relationships we’ve thrown our real-life relationships onto these networks as well.  The Cloud Communities don’t include just tangent relationships formed over the Internet, but they now include our family, friends and co-workers.  There isn’t anything wrong with having our everyday relationships included in our online lives, but there is a problem with the degree that the online relationships and our real-life integrate.  Unlike the BBS friendship, or the AOL chat buddy, the online networks aren’t locked down to a system that is only accessible through our computer over a modem.  These relationships, with stranger or family member, are all directly accessible through countless means, the most common one being our cell phones.  The online relationships are beginning to encroach on our real-life relationships.  Tweeting, checking our friends’ Facebook status and reading email replies to our latest post within a community have trumped the conversation and relationship of the people sitting in front of us.  It’s gone as far as being the means in which some relationships are maintained, even when person is just down the street.

The virtualization of our relationships and communities isn’t all doom and gloom, but the extent of which it has interfered with reality has made more people local introverts and global extroverts.  When a text message across the room is a more common means of greeting people in a group rather than finding them and shacking their hand, our environment and bodies no longer matter.  Which makes motivating and connecting with groups even more complicated.  Attempts to connect and commune online results in a direct competition with all the noise already welcome in the individual's Cloud Community.

One voice among several hundred aren’t the ideal odds someone fresh out of bible schools wants to deal with, but with an online connected teenager the odds become one voice among  hundreds-of-thousands.  How does the church connect, commune and counter-act the noise outside of our local environment when it is welcomed in by the one we’re trying to reach?  What do we do with our involvement in the online communities to stand out within each individual’s Cloud Community that they built up around their self?  How do you communicate peace to an individual that is surrounded by more activity and noise than ever imagined, especially when the Cloud Community is always there even when our local community is no where near?  How does a group outside of someone’s Cloud Community connect with them and become apart of their community?

How has the virtualization of your own relationships and interactions impacted your local environment?  How has it impacted your peace of mind?  Do the costs of maintaining and managing your own Cloud Community out weigh the benefits of maintaining the connections, community and invasion of your life and privacy?

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Categories: Cloud Communities | rants

When the computers go silent

by Benjamin Anderson 11. June 2009 19:53

How do you know your computer is doing a lot of work?  Most of the time the key indicator is hard drive heads clattering away ever so often as information is written and read from the drive. Well, as we move to 64-bit operating systems with more and more RAM and solid state hard drives the computer's operation will become virtually silent.  No longer will you know when the information is being paged out or your anti-virus software is chugging away aside from the system monitors and performance logs.  The silent laptop is kind of exciting and eerie at the same time.

The other crazy things is having a 17inch laptop with screaming specs last on battery longer than 7 hours.

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Categories: technology

“Rebecca’s” new toy

by Benjamin Anderson 15. May 2009 20:19

I’m typing this on a little pink Acer Aspire One netbook.  Yes, I said pink.  I bought it today for my wife to use while in school.  It would only $50 at Radio Shack after signing up for a two year contract with AT&T for mobile 3G data.

Despite the fact that it is slower than my old laptop, it is a neat little toy.  It only has an 8.9” wide aspect ratio screen with a 1024x600 resolution, and it is no bigger than our portable DVD player.  In fact, in the bag it looks like a portable DVD player, only it’s metallic pink.  Barbie Doll pink.

I played with it while at work today, and it works very well.  Running XP again is a little different since some of the UI elements are still as ugly as Windows95, but with only 1GB of RAM I’m not going to install Vista on it.  It is a netbook.  Plenty of storage, but the audio isn’t all that great, it’s not meant to do much more than surf and do office stuff, but it does boot fairly quickly and it is snappy enough for me to use when I’m on call or we’re on the road.  For school and general uses that my wife needs a laptop for, we couldn’t have found a better deal.  Hey, we also get unlimited wifi access at AT&T hotspots, some of Rebecca’s favorite places to study.

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Review: The Noticer

by Benjamin Anderson 10. May 2009 17:25

The Noticer is the story about how one man can impact so many people, provide additional perspective and help an entire town through their own difficulties. Jones has in some way impacted everyone in Orange Beach, Alabama and planted seeds of wisdom in a community to help them through life's difficulties.

The book is very uplifting and at times will force out a laugh or even a tear in response to the character's situations. While each character's situation can be frustrating to the reader as a result of the narrative perspective, Jones' responsive and foresight will often bring a smile to your face or even make you laugh. While Jones is always talking about perspective the book is continuously delivering a message about everyone's ability to provide the helping hand, the listening ear and life changing perspective through seeds of wisdom. Everyone has that certain person in their past that impacted their life for the better and that relationship is a milestone in our journey, this book allows the reader to spy on those situations for several different people and situations. The book will help inspire your our internal "noticer" in an effort to change the world around you.

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Categories: book review

Change

by Benjamin Anderson 24. April 2009 21:28

This week we had a re-org at work.  The changes didn’t impact many people, and no one was let go, but it did affect me.  I’m no longer a member of the Research and Diagnostics team, no longer a lead, and probably the most significant change, no longer interfacing with the customer.  I’ve been moved to the IT team as their developer to help automate our internal processes, to consolidate tasks and to ultimately help improve our security procedures and policies by allowing us to properly restrict privileges to those that should have them.

My day-to-day responsibilities, as they were in reality, aren’t changing that much.  I’m still responsible for the production environment, deployments and maintaining our products, but I no longer have to deal with the stress and frustrations from the relationships with the customer.  Which recently, have been very frustrating, since most of my interaction with the customer is after or during a big mess.  My involvement in customer tasks often meant that is was a crisis or deemed a crisis by the customer.  Moving from one upset customer to another can be very tiring, so I am looking forward to not being responsible for those issues any more.

I still do not know how to feel about all the other changes yet.  For a while, it means that I’m solely responsible for managing and maintaining our products until I get the other members of IT up to speed, which means I’ll be working more and on call all the time.  The situation isn’t a whole lot different than it was during the re-org right before I moved to cover for nights, but now my only customer is the rest of the company.

A couple of technology “changes” I’ll be learning and working on are:

  • Learning and scripting in MS Powershell.
  • Automating many of my previous responsibilities.
  • Coding monitoring tools and plug-ins to interface with our production environment for forecasting and reliability purposes.
  • Teaching IT about our services, products and architectures.
  • Teaching IT basic “programming” skills in areas of scripting and thinking to help increase management and maintenance productivity.
  • Documentation.

 

There are still a lot of things to iron out in the next week or two, but ultimately, two or three months in the future, I should have a personal life once again.  It felt good to remove my name from the emergency contact list and my cell phone from the distribution list after two years.

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Categories: life

Review: Rex by Cathleen Lewis

by Benjamin Anderson 13. April 2009 19:02
Rex is a mother's reflection on her struggle and joys as a parent of an blind and autistic boy.  Cathleen walks the reader through the hardships, the internal struggles, and joys of understanding true love and peace that hope and faith can bring, despite life's many struggles.  Rex is an autistic and blind child that has one strong connection to the world around him through music as a savant.

While not an easy book to read due too the emotionally heavy content, this is one book that I believe should be added to the required reading list of learning young adults.  The book is an instant and reaffirming acknowledgment for those that have learned what unconditional love really is.  But the book is also an opportunity for those that do not quite understand unconditional love, due to a lack of experience, to experience it through a mother's own struggle with the pains of this world and the joys of children despite the hardships and struggles that come with being a parent.

I especially recommend this book for individuals that desire to grow in areas of helps ministry.  This book will work on your empathy more than anything.

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Categories: book review

AutoMute Windows Service

by Benjamin Anderson 5. April 2009 18:59

I’m releasing the first version of the AutoMute Service, which will automatically mute and unmute the sound on a Window’s computer when the session is Locked and Unlocked.  This is incredibly useful for the computer at the office when you’re listening to music on your headphones and often forget to pause or mute the music when you walk away.

More info can be found here

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Categories: Programming | .NET

Review: The Last Lecture

by Benjamin Anderson 3. March 2009 21:09

Wow. It's really difficult to pick a place to begin with this book!  I've had to postpone writing the review for it just so that my feelings and thoughts had time to settle and age a little bit.  This is a book that should be on everyone's reading list.  In fact, I'm adding it to my yearly reading list.  Randy Pausch's attitude and foresight into life will open up your own eyes to the cloudy perspective that so many of us have about life.  Our day-to-day routine becomes a burden and we lose sight of our purpose and what really matters in life.  This book really puts a smile on your face, despite the saddening circumstances involved in producing the book.

Randy Pausch’s purpose in his Last Lecture is to provide his friends, and most importantly, his children with the lessons that he has learned throughout his life and to also leave a little bit of himself behind for them in the future.  The lessons learned and the stories told will become a staple in people’s development in the future.

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Categories: book review

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About the author

Benjamin is a software developer in the DFW area.  He spends his free time playing video games, programming, doing graphics design and photography, and reading.

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