A new way for politics?

Over the last month or two I have been paying a little attention to a newly formed group called No Labels. Simply put, they aren’t Democrat, Republican, Liberal or Conservative. The group touts itself as a group of Americans who are interested in putting America first over partisan politics and figure out how to compromise.

Interesting thought. I am going to continue to follow them for a while and see if they can get meaningful traction. I like the idea, but it flies in the face of today’s Washington culture which continues to promote extremism and division. I applaud the efforts of No Labels and hope they can change the tone in Washington and across the nation.

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Book Review: Calico Joe

For those that know me, I’m a pretty busy person.  With an active family like mine, the daily routine does not afford me much time to read.  So, when the opportunity presented itself this weekend to do some reading I was pretty excited to read Calico Joe, by John Grisham.  This book got my attention because it appeared to be about baseball, and I have enjoyed Grisham’s work, such as The Firm and many others.

I was not disappointed.  In typical Grisham style, we follow the story of the three main characters Joe Castle, Warren Tracey and Paul Tracey.  Without dropping any spoilers, it highlighted the dynamic of fathers and sons and their involvement with baseball, plus the always heartening rags-to-riches story of the hometown ballplayer making it big.  It reminds us that one of the great things about baseball is that is provides a common language, as the game hasn’t really changed all that much.

I especially appreciated the fact that Grisham brought us along and revealed the details very thoughtfully, which mapped out the eventual collision course of our main characters.  Even though it is fiction, the level of attention to the finer points of the game were appreciated, as it helped put me in the moment as a reader.

Calico Joe receives my recommendation as it was a great read for a baseball fan like me.

At the Epicenter of Big Data Research

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I am wiped out as I am on the plane home from my most recent experience at MIT.  This week the topic was Big Data.  Big Data is a big topic around the water cooler these days, so I thought it would be important to learn more about it.  The title of the course was Big Data: Making Complex Things Simpler.  This was a 2 day Executive Education course designed to brief managers and executives on this exploding field.

First of all, if you are interested in this topic I highly recommend making the investment of time and money to attend a future offering.  Professors Erik Brynjolfsson and Sandy Pentland, leading researchers in Big Data present a well-crafted curriculum that connects a great deal of their research around how Big Data now provides the technology framework to do, very quickly, what researchers have done for years – create hypotheses, design experiments and analyze results.  Because of Big Data technologies, organizations can become more data-driven in their operations and/or product development.  Key issues including data privacy and data ownership are discussed as well, but this landscape is changing very rapidly, so it was challenging to go into too much depth.

If you are looking to better understand Big Data technologies, this is not the course to take.  However, if you are looking to spend a few days better understanding the ramifications of Big Data and how they impact organizations, I highly recommend making the investment.  The participants in the class contributed greatly to the discourse, which I appreciated as well. Plus, it was a great place to network and find out what is happening in other industries related to Big Data.

Samsung Galaxy Note: Cool Phone!

Samsung Galaxy Note at CES 2012

Perhaps one of the most compelling announcements at the CES event last week was the Samsung Galaxy Note phone.  Their pitch was that this larger form factor phone removes the need to carry a tablet (e.g. iPad) and a phone.  The picture to the right highlights some of the key features.  The most prominent is the presence of a pen/stylus which enables the ability to do very precise drawing and sketching.  It’s thin profile and very soft display make it very easy to use (on the eyes, that is).

Caricatures on the Samsung Galaxy Note

The photo on the right was taken in the concourse of the Las Vegas Convention Center.  People were lined up hundreds deep to get their caricature done by a professional artist on the Galaxy Note.  It was arguably one of the most popular exhibition of the show.  I think it’s a neat device that will probably do well this year.

Here’s a link to their promo on YouTube.

Here’s a blog post with some of the technical details, including lack of an actual release date in the US.

iPad 2: Early Report

Thanks to my wonderful assistant, I am now a user of a new iPad 2.  I have had a chance to use it for a few weeks and have a couple of observations.  Impressive device, overall, with some new key features.

First, it is much thinner.  The specifications suggest 30 percent or so smaller, which when you set it along side a version 1 model, you will notice that it is a significant.  It slides nicely into my briefcase, and takes less space.  It’s also slightly lighter, but less noticeable than it’s overall footprint.

With the A5 processor, it is faster.  I am definitely noticing that while I have used it so far.  Cameras on both front and back are new also, which creates the opportunity to do a video teleconference.

Adding the dongle accessory, I can also do full screen sharing which has already come in handy.  We had an important executive presentation a few weeks ago where we ran the entire slideshow and related demonstrations on the iPad connected to a large HD monitor through an HDMI cable.

The most noticeable thing overall, in my opinion, is the anti-smudging material for the screen.  Unless you have been enjoying some greasy fried chicken, the iPad 2 screen stays relatively free of smudges.  When I set my iPhone next to it, the difference is really noticeable.

The market has responded well.  There are a number of reports about how many have been sold, and extended delivery dates, and so on.  The most compelling statistic, in my opinion is that 70% of buyers in the first weekend were first time buyers.  This is telling me that the tablet is not a fad — it’s here to stay.

iPhone 4 – The First Week

First, let me admit that I like Apple stuff.  I had a Gen 1 iPhone, and I have numerous iPods in the house, plus a couple of Macs, plus my iPad.  So, even though the critics came out early with the antenna issue, I still was determined to get my new iPhone.  Finally, after a three week wait it arrived.

After I got everything synched from my old iPhone, I started using the device.  I immediately noticed the faster processor.  I also really like the user interface feature adds with the multitasking (double-click the big button) and the folders (drag one icon onto another to create the folder).  I used the video camera right away to tape my daughter’s theatre performance.  The HD quality is impressive, and it was SO easy to get the video to You Tube.  The second camera is cool, but our corporate firewall blocks the FaceTime call (big shocker), so I haven’t been able to test that as of yet.

The big question I get when showing my device to my fellow propellor-heads is around the antenna.  The bumpers I got for free from Apple.  I haven’t had any issues with dropped calls as of yet — my old device did drop calls regularly.

The only issue I have had is with the email application.  It seems to hang somewhat so messages are delayed in hitting the Inbox even though the message count shows new messages.  I also had a sent message hung up for a few hours earlier today.

On the application side, I downloaded the geocaching application (Geocaching.com) which works great with the GPS.  I am looking for a good (and cheap) turn-by-turn application, so comment below if you see one.

I used the Bluetooth audio with my wife’s Ford Fusion and its Microsoft Sync system (affectionately known as our $25k MP3 player).  It was pretty easy, but I don’t get to use all of the cool controls Sync offers.   Also, I bought a Bluetooth headset for hands-free calling in my truck, plus for mowing the lawn and exercise.  It works great!

All in all, it has been a great experience.  I had been waiting for this upgrade for a while, so it was a welcome upgrade.  Can’t wait until more people I know get the iPhone 4 so FaceTime calls become more prevalent.  Will the AT&T network hold up?