Monthly Archives: April 2006

Interview with millionaire Marc Allen

Interview with millionaire Marc Allen.

Self-improvement blogger Steve Pavlina does a great interview with entrepreneur and multi-millionaire Marc Allen.

Allen describes himself as lazy, running his publishing company on less than 30 hours a week. He sleeps until 11AM, takes Mondays off, spends Sundays with his family, completely disconnected from the internet and work. He says he came into this success after simply deciding he wanted to be a millionaire when he turned 30 years old – when he was unemployed and barely able to pay the $65/month rent on his one room studio.

What does it take to become a millionaire today?

Intention. That's all it ever takes; that's all it has ever taken for anyone at any time. There are just as many opportunities today as there were a generation ago, and a hundred years ago. As Napoleon Hill said, “Within every adversity is the seed of an equal or greater benefit.”

There are so many great quotes in this interview I didn't know how to choose; so do head over and read the entire piece. I'm not sure how I feel about millionaire-dom being the ultimate goal, but Allen's thoughts on intention, visualization and meditation are fascinating.

Marc Allen Interview [Steve Pavlina] [Lifehacker]

Microsoft Vista's Endless Security Warnings

Microsoft Vista's Endless Security Warnings.

Paul Thurrott has posted an excellent essay on the problems with Windows Vista. Most interesting to me is how they implement UAP (User Account Protection):

Modern operating systems like Linux and Mac OS X operate under a security model where even administrative users don't get full access to certain features unless they provide an in-place logon before performing any task that might harm the system. This type of security model protects users from themselves, and it is something that Microsoft should have added to Windows years and years ago.

Here's the good news. In Windows Vista, Microsoft is indeed moving to this kind of security model. The feature is called User Account Protection (UAP) and, as you might expect, it prevents even administrative users from performing potentially dangerous tasks without first providing security credentials, thus ensuring that the user understands what they're doing before making a critical mistake. It sounds like a good system. But this is Microsoft, we're talking about here. They completely botched UAP.

The bad news, then, is that UAP is a sad, sad joke. It's the most annoying feature that Microsoft has ever added to any software product, and yes, that includes that ridiculous Clippy character from older Office versions. The problem with UAP is that it throws up an unbelievable number of warning dialogs for even the simplest of tasks. That these dialogs pop up repeatedly for the same action would be comical if it weren't so amazingly frustrating. It would be hilarious if it weren't going to affect hundreds of millions of people in a few short months. It is, in fact, almost criminal in its insidiousness.

Let's look a typical example. One of the first things I do whenever I install a new Windows version is download and install Mozilla Firefox. If we forget, for a moment, the number of warning dialogs we get during the download and install process (including a brazen security warning from Windows Firewall for which Microsoft should be chastised), let's just examine one crucial, often overlooked issue. Once Firefox is installed, there are two icons on my Desktop I'd like to remove: The Setup application itself and a shortcut to Firefox. So I select both icons and drag them to the Recycle Bin. Simple, right?

Wrong. Here's what you have to go through to actually delete those files in Windows Vista. First, you get a File Access Denied dialog (Figure) explaining that you don't, in fact, have permission to delete a … shortcut?? To an application you just installed??? Seriously?

OK, fine. You can click a Continue button to “complete this operation.” But that doesn't complete anything. It just clears the desktop for the next dialog, which is a Windows Security window (Figure). Here, you need to give your permission to continue something opaquely called a “File Operation.” Click Allow, and you're done. Hey, that's not too bad, right? Just two dialogs to read, understand, and then respond correctly to. What's the big deal?

What if you're doing something a bit more complicated? Well, lucky you, the dialogs stack right up, one after the other, in a seemingly never-ending display of stupidity. Indeed, sometimes you'll find yourself unable to do certain things for no good reason, and you click Allow buttons until you're blue in the face. It will never stop bothering you, unless you agree to stop your silliness and leave that file on the desktop where it belongs. Mark my words, this will happen to you. And you will hate it.

The problem with lots of warning dialog boxes is that they don't provide security. Users stop reading them. They think of them as annoyances, as an extra click required to get a feature to work. Clicking through gets embedded into muscle memory, and when it actually matters the user won't even realize it.

Jeff Atwood says the same thing:

The problem with the Security Through Endless Warning Dialogs school of thought is that it doesn't work. All those earnest warning dialogs eventually blend together into a giant “click here to get work done” button that nobody bothers to read any more. The operating system cries wolf so much that when a real wolf– in the form of a virus or malware– rolls around, you'll mindlessly allow it access to whatever it wants, just out of habit.

So does Rick Strahl:

Then there are the security dialogs. Ah yes, now we're making progress: Ask users on EVERY program you launch that isn't signed whether they want to elevate permissions. Uh huh, this is going to work REAL WELL. We know how well that worked with unsigned ActiveX controls in Internet Explorer ­ so well that even Microsoft isn't signing most of its own ActiveX controls. Give too many warnings that are not quite reasonable and people will never read the dialogs and just click them anyway… I know I started doing that in the short use I've had on Vista.

These dialog boxes are not security for the user, they're CYA security from the user. When some piece of malware trashes your system, Microsoft can say: “You gave the program permission to do that; it's not our fault.”

Warning dialog boxes are only effective if the user has the ability to make intelligent decisions about the warnings. If the user cannot do that, they're just annoyances. And they're annoyances that don't improve security.  [Schneier on Security]

Are We Short of Engineers?

Are We Short of Engineers?.

This morning's Wall Street Journal carried a short opinion
piece by Robert J. Stevens, CEO of Lockheed Martin, complaining how the
US is short of engineers and therefore falling behind the rest of the
world in technological innovation. His list of remedies is all the
usual: Spend more on education, bring in more foreign engineers, work
harder. The only thing he doesn't suggest is the one thing no CEO will
ever allow himself to say: Pay more for engineering talent.

We
are not short of engineers. I can say this with confidence because if
we were, engineering salaries would be going through the roof (they're
not), engineers would be the constant targets of headhunters urging
them to jump ship (they're not), there would be no unemployed or
underemployed engineers (there are many) and more students would be
entering engineering degree programs. (They're not.) Between the lines
I hear the constant mantra coming from everywhere in the business
world: We want employees who are young, childless, and without
significant medical problems, who are willing to work 80-hour weeks for
under $50,000 a year.

If we are indeed falling behind the rest of
the world in technology (and that's a highly debatable issue) the
solution is not to generate more engineers, but to do more engineering.
And that will require a whole raft of changes in the way business is
done in the US:

  • Our patent system is hugely corrupt, and is actively hindering technological progress.
  • Obstructionism
    under the guise of phony environmental concern is holding back
    technology in many vital areas, especially energy and transportation.
  • Monopolistic
    powers held by telecommunications firms are holding back what we can do
    with cell and wired Internet technology. Just look at what they're
    doing in the Pacific Rim if you don't think this is the case.
  • Tort
    law is like molasses in the crankcase of every single area of American
    endeavor. Employment lawsuits, environmental lawsuits, product
    liability lawsuits are more and more disconnected from reality and any
    reasonable concept of justice—companies can be sued and destroyed for
    things they never did and over which they have no control.

With
all of that hanging over your head, engineering just isn't much fun
anymore. Nor does it pay especially well. Companies that say, “Well, we
can't afford to pay our engineering staff more than we already do”
always seem to find another $10 million to throw at the CEO or other
top exective staff. No wonder all the bright young kids want to go into
finance or management.

Everybody—CEOs in particular—must remember
that labor is a market. You can only offer so little for wages before
you get no takers due to the time and effort it takes to develop the
skills required to do the job. I think we're at that point in a number
of fields, primarily engineering and medical support. I have reflected
that when markets get efficient enough, they force prices down to the
point where nothing works especially well. Yet if you artificially
raise prices to the point where everything works well, large chunks of
the population can't afford the product. There's obviously a sweet spot
somewhere (there always is) but the kicker is figuring out how to find
it.  [Jeff Duntemann's ContraPositive Diary]

Appetite

Appetite.

Dan's recent post about software got me thinking. Maybe you're like me, where you love trying out cool new apps. “Wow, this is great! It'll save me time and I'll be far more productive”. But after a day or so the excitement wears off and you're back to pencil and paper, or storing things mentally, or doing things without that exciting app again.

For general web work I tend to stick to the basics only: Photoshop, BBEdit, NetNewsWire, Transmit, and all the goodies that come bundled with OS X. I suppose the only oddball would be the Backpack Dashboard widget. I've found it to be one of the only productivity apps (if I may call it that) I use with any sort of frequency. I prefer the widget over the web interface, although I'm not sure if that means anything. It's been useful for keeping track of little client bits, unpaid invoices (I should really be using this), etc.

Actually I've just thought of a few that might be worth mentioning: Iconographer (for creating favicons) and SuperDuper! (recommended by DB and used as my routine backup solution).

I've always considered myself a “Power User”, but damn… maybe that's wishful thinking.  [SimpleBits]

IA Summit summaries

IA Summit summaries.

So, summaries from the IA Summit have been coming out – the most recent at Boxes and Arrows, now in its 5th year of Summit coverage. See session-by-session descriptions and reflection for
Overview and Preconferences
Saturday
Sunday
Monday

UXMatters also has a summary posted, a reflective take from one summit attendee that's illuminating.

Finally many presentation slide decks and posters have been linked on the IA Summit site itself (with many thanks to Donna Maurer).  [ia/ blogs]

Why Law Firm Innovation is so Hard

Why Law Firm Innovation is so Hard.

Last November I reported on a Richard Susskind article explaining the lack of innovation in US law firms. The situation may be even worse according to a new article by professional services guru David Maister.

In Are Law Firms Manageable?, Maister paints a grim picture of large law firms and their management. As he explains in his blogged summary, “Among the ways that legal training and practice keep lawyers from effectively functioning in groups are (i) problems with trust; (ii) difficulties with ideology, values, and principles; (iii) professional detachment; and (iv) unusual approaches to decision making.”

The article also contributes further to understanding the challenge of innovation in law firms; a short quote:

“In a room full of lawyers, any idea, no matter how brilliant, will be instantly attacked… most ideas, no matter who initiates them, will be destroyed, dismissed, or postponed for future examination… law firms have a remarkable propensity for half measure, launching poorly specified programs with minimal chance of success….
Lawyers also have a strange view of the concept of risk. In any other business, an idea that was likely to work much of the time would be eagerly explored. [But lawyers will look for a hypothetical where the idea will fail.] There is no greater condemnation in legal discourse than to describe something as risky.”

The entire article is worth reading and quite sobering for CIOs, consultants, and other proponents of innovative use of legal technology.  
[Strategic Legal Technology]

Intuit “Reboots” TurboTax

Intuit “Reboots” TurboTax. By tim

I can't imagine a more potent “news from the future” story that underlines how the web is becoming the new software platform than today's New York Times report that Intuit compared the temporary shutdown of TurboTax yesterday to a software reboot:

Some TurboTax users encountered a brief filing delay Monday afternoon when the software maker Intuit Inc. shut down its computer system to prepare for the heavier volume of electronic tax filing expected later in the evening.

Intuit spokeswoman Julie Miller equated the move to the rebooting of a PC and said the company decided to do the ''preventative maintenance'' before the system could potentially slow to a crawl for the inevitable thousands of last-minute tax filers.

Steve Bellovin, who posted this news to Dave Farber's IP list, wrote: “To me, that smells of buggy code, and probably a resource leak. Of course, I don't know if it's Intuit's software or the underlying OS.” I'm not sure it matters which — what the news does suggest, though, that as Web 2.0 matures, it will be subject to many of the same aches and pains as other software systems. What's more, it suggests just how important operational competency is going to be in the Web 2.0 era. When a Web application crashes, it crashes for everyone. As they become mission-critical, Web 2.0 applications need a much higher level of fail-safe.  [O'Reilly Radar]

Angry/negative people can be bad for your brain

Angry/negative people can be bad for your brain. Everyone's favorite A-list target, Robert Scoble, announced the unthinkable a few days ago: he will be moderating his comments. But what some people found far more disturbing was Robert's wish to make a change in his life that includes steering clear of “people who were deeply unhappy” and hanging around people who are
happy. The harsh reaction he's gotten could be a lesson in scientific
ingorance, because the neuroscience is behind him on this one.  … [Creating Passionate Users]

Investigating the Bush presidency

Investigating the Bush presidency.

Carl Bernstein (who forever is linked to Dustin Hoffman in my mind) has an essay on the Vanity Fair site calling for, Senate Hearings on Bush, Now.

After Nixon's resignation, it was often said that the system had worked. Confronted by an aberrant president, the checks and balances on the executive by the legislative and judicial branches of government, and by a free press, had functioned as the founders had envisioned.

The system has thus far failed during the presidency of George W. Bush–at incalculable cost in human lives, to the American political system, to undertaking an intelligent and effective war against terror, and to the standing of the United States in parts of the world where it previously had been held in the highest regard.

There was understandable reluctance in the Congress to begin a serious investigation of the Nixon presidency. Then there came a time when it was unavoidable. That time in the Bush presidency has arrived.

He makes a pretty compelling case, and I hope Congress wakes up one of these days and decides to take some action.  [megnut]