Monthly Archives: March 2009

IT Pros: Stop by our Booth at Interop Las Vegas ‘09

Are you heading to Las Vegas for the big Interop Conference and Expo in May? If so, stop by Booth 2636 May 19-21 and meet some of the Connectzone team. We’d love to share some of the exciting ways IT organizations are using our products and services. Plus we’ll give you a chance to see our recent additions of data racks and cabinets that will make your life easier.

Interop is always a great show with over 400 exhibitors showing off all kinds of IT solutions. If you’re going and looking for a free Expo Pass, here’s a priority code you can use: CMXXNL03

Be sure to stop by Booth 2636. We’re looking forward to meeting you!

Connectzone Marketing Team

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Why I love the Recession

No, I have not drunk any strange Kool-Aid lately; I am both an optimistic and realistic. I am adaptable enough that when life hands me lemons-I WILL find a way to make lemonade. Recall the blog about Jemma “failure is not an option” and “gentlemen I believe this will be our finest hour”. Regarding “Commit and Providence will Move” and “I refuse to allow outside influences determine my level of success”.

The current economic crisis has given me some astounding, unbelievable gifts. Gifts like time and reflection and I don’t mean the kind of reflection Narcissus enjoyed. Let me explain.

As a business owner, when economic times are good, how much time to you spend wondering what your bank merchant card fees are? Tell the truth now, if you aren’t personally checking on the fees, do you know who is and if they really are? Do you even know how to calculate the fees or are you depending on that nice person that comes out from merchant services and tells you how they can save you money?

When your company is busy fulfilling orders, are you shopping health insurance policies? If you aren’t maybe it is your human resource department. Are you sure your human resource department cares about your bottom line?

Employee training. In fat economic times, if there is a problem with an order do you investigate that and correct it, or just refund the customer.

Customer relations. How well does your sales staff know their customers? For me if Joe Average Googles “cheap HDMI cables” there is going to be roughly 10 million other web sites that have discount HDMI cables for sale-why are they going to choose me? Cool name, cheap price, reputation for good customer service? Or maybe my sales guy knows they prefer a non fat latte or the name of their child’s private school.

Vendor relations. When you are so saturated with order fulfillment that every sale is an emergency, are you 100% confident your vendors are giving
you the best pricing?

What are the core values of your company? Because your values and those of your employees are the rocket fuel that will propel you to the top of the game or conversely just get you to 7-11 around the corner. Food for thought.

Now here is the Pollyanna coming out in me:

The United States of America is founded in the idea that “we can do it”. It oozes from us everywhere. The Pilgrims vomited over the side of a boat for 3 months to get here (a place unknown-at one time thought off the edge of the earth), in WWII Rosie the riveter galvanized women to help in the work force, Martin Luther King had a dream, Mr. Gorbachav tore down his wall, First Responders ran toward catastrophe on September 11 2001. One of the greatest catastrophes in our nation’s history and people ran toward it not away from it. The victims of 9/11 may have been afraid and running away, but the rest of us ran towards New York. Firemen, Policemen, Doctors, Search Dogs, even me-I ran towards it. Never in my life did I have an interest in visiting New York until September 11th. At the moment I was standing in line to give blood at the local blood center and watched the second tower collapse I
knew I was going to New York. I refuse to allow anything to control my fears-including terrorists. I got galvanized, had a drink or several on the plane and I went there and saw the smoking rubble and cried. And I bought Tee shirts and ate at restaurants and had a horse ride in
Central Park to prove to anyone who would listen “I am not afraid”. I personally felt I could help New York recover-many of us did-and New York did recover.

The point is, we Americans individually and collectively are strong, ingenious, driven and committed to a better way of life for ourselves and our children. We are a force to be reconded with. This economy will recover and in fact flourish. So for me, I am going to prepare for the Tsunami when our economy breaks loose. It’s coming so be prepared.

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Blowfish Encryption

I was watching 24 the other night and Blowfish Encryption caught my attention. I started wondering to myself if that was even a real thing. You know like how doctors in shows like Grey’s Anatomy and ER do fake CPR? Turns out Blowfish is a real thing, so here is my version of
“Blowfish for Dummies”.

To make a computer do anything, you would have to write a program, basically give it a task. An algorithm (aka cipher) tells the program how to do the task. So here is an easy example.

I am going to wash my car-that is my program. There are lots of ways to get my car washed:

1. Go to the car wash.

2. Do it with a hose in my driveway.

3. Pay a neighbor kid to do it for me.

The way I choose to get my car clean is the algorithm or a cipher.

In cryptography, Blowfish is a keyed, symmetric block cipher, designed in 1993 by Bruce Schneier.
There is no record of anyone ever “breaking” a Blowfish code. So my curiosity got the better of me when Morris found a “backdoor” and that is how he broke the encrypted message sent from Rene to Jack. A backdoor is basically a way the original developer of the code can break the code by entering through a back door they themselves created. Most often it’s someone’s birthday or their dogs name and so on. Turns out there is no back door for Blowfish and I know this because its creator Bruce Schneier has a blog of his own, loves 24 and has been blogging about it since Monday night. If you go to his site-it is both informative and hilarious. Those guys are talking so far over my head! As in the Gary Larsen cartoon where 2 mathematicians taped a paper with a math problem on it to the 3 mathematicians back. The rest of us aren’t even smart enough to know why it is so funny!

The long and the short of it is, Blowfish is real, there is no back door and it has never been broken which begs the question how would Rene have gotten the key to Jack so he could open it?

Cipher isn’t a new idea-quite old actually, in fact it goes back as far as the Greeks. They would use ciphers, specific codes that involve subsitutions or shifting information. For example here is a cipher with a grid of letters and numbers:

1 2 3 4 5
1 A B C D E
2 F G H I/J K
3 L M N O P
4 Q R S T U
5 V W X Y Z

If a Spartan general wished to send the message I AM SPARTA to another general, he would write this series of numbers:

42 11 23 34 53 11 24 44 11

 

As long as both generals had the correct cipher, they could decode any message the other sent.

 

And that is Blowfish for Dummies. And I only barely understand the tip of this so if I have made mistakes or someone smarter than me wants to correct me-please feel free to comment.

And last but not least I want you all to know I voted for Jack Bauer for President.

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Commit And Providence Will Move

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves as well. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you do, or dream
you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.”

This quote is most often attributed to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Goethe lived from August 1749 until March 1832. He is quite an interesting fellow who studied and influenced numerous things from philosophy, eroticism, law, poetry, drama, literature, theology and science. He wrote Faust-a very thought provoking philosophical story of the main character Faust selling his sole to Mephistopheles (a.k.a. the Devil). A great read-but not at all light, you must pay attention the entire time. The story of Faust is also the inspiration for the Police hit song “wrapped around your finger” in case you like music trivia. Makes sense given that Gordon Sumner was a teacher before he was Sting, the Rock Star. If you were looking for a quick, easy, 5 minute read stop now and come back when you have time because the ideas in this blog are going to be harder to understand than my next blog about Blowfish Encryption.

Goethe is talking about commitment and how it affects one’s life. There is this chasm of difference between a wish, a hope, and idea, the truth and commitment and it is easy to spot in daily life.

This is what you say when you aren’t truly committed:

1.    I need to quit smoking.

2.    I hope President Obama can get us out of this financial mess.

3.    I should stop drinking.

4.    I want to grow my business.

Conversely, this is what commitment sounds like:

1.    I have joined a quit smoking support group and bought nicorrette, I start tomorrow.

2.    I refuse to allow outside influences to control my destiny.

3.    I am checking into rehab today.

4.    I will do whatever is necessary to make my business not just survive but flourish right now.

Why is it important to know the difference? Because, if you know your mental position you can change it and that makes you the most powerful force in your life. Destiny, karma, fate, a political party and addiction no longer control you. Only you control your life and that is the upside. The down side to being in control of your life is that you and you alone, claim responsibility. Sales weren’t good today-well that’s on you, not the phone company, not the network server not the thunderstorm that blew up your server. Marriage is failing-yeah-that’s on you-not your spouse, kid uses crack-yep that’s your responsibility,
not your fault but your responsibility. There are some who would prefer to blame the weatherman, their spouse, other people’s carbon footprint-the list goes on forever when they could have unlimited power to influence their lives and success.

Now here is where it gets tricky so take a moment to digest this idea before you go further, commitment, truth and reality aren’t the same things. Commitment is a mental position, a notion, an idea not necessarily the truth with a capital “T”. Let me give you a very offensive example of truth and reality as follows:

Let’s say you give birth to a child with disabilities. No parent wants to give birth to a disabled child. If you are cognizant at all you will worry about that child’s future in every way possible. The “TRUTH” with a capital “T” is that your child’s disability was probably random, it’s painful, it’s frightening, it will make yours and their life harder, it will make you cry, want to throw up and it isn’t fair. And that is the truth. At that point you can make the “truth” your commitment, your mental position. Or not.

I happen to believe in God but if you have some other higher
power-wherever I say God insert the name of your higher power, whether it’s Karma, Darwin or Buddha or a doorknob. You could make your position that “God found me uniquely qualified for this task, he gave me this child quite purposefully the same way he will guide me to cope with mine and my child’s challenges.” That mental position of commitment returns the power to you instead of giving it to fate, karma or the fairness of life. Now you have your power back-you are in charge of your destiny, not the fairness we know real life doesn’t guarantee. In short if the problem is yours-you can fix it, change it and deal with it. If the problem belongs to fate-you have no control to fix it, change it, or deal with it whatsoever. Fate will decide how your life goes, the weatherman controls what you wear, and political decisions completely out of your control decide what you are having for dinner.

Tomorrow I am committing to go to the gym at lunch. I have promised my best friend and invited 2 people to go with me, my clothes are in the car and I have a plan on eating lunch after at my desk while working.

What are you going to commit to? Ready to accept the consequences of flipping the switch on Providence?

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How Much Technology is Enough?

From The movie Wall Street

Bud Fox: “How much is enough? “

Gordon Gekko: It’s not a question of enough, pal. It’s a zero sum game, somebody wins, somebody loses. Money itself isn’t lost or made, it’s simply transferred from one perception to another.”

This quote applies to this article in two ways. First it begs the question how much technology is really necessary to run a business or your life for that matter? Second is the zero sum game where someone (insert your company name here) wins and someone (insert your competitor’s name here) loses. At least everyone hopes it works out that way.

I have been pretty old school in my thinking. I only learned how to IM last week. Didn’t see the purpose. Why not use technology I already know, like email or cell phone. Then I don’t have to learn anything new. Frankly I am not the smartest or coolest crayon in the box and like most humans I don’t like change very much. Then I got a lesson from one of my sales people Lance.

Lance had posted some of our product for sale in on a forum website. A company previously unknown to him saw the posting on said forum and contacted him, with an Instant Message.

Before Lance could type back to the potential customer, his cell phone rang-yep it’s the customer from the Instant Message. This customer is about to leave his office in England, Lance is just getting started with his day in Washington.

This customer is in need of product and it must ship NOW. This customer has already been to our website and checked out product. Next our new customer emails a PO to Lance. For payment the customer is understandably reluctant to email credit card information-so he faxes it.

Lance proceeds with the order using our company network of computers and software. Our shipping department uses the internet to process the shipping of the product. The customer is sent a receipt with tracking information via email.

Everything bolded represents technology. Note to self nowhere do I mention carrier pigeons.

So essentially the transactions described above just eliminated “the pond” that exists between the USA and England. So it would seem that as technology grows, the distance around the planet proportionally shrinks. I confidently speculate that this transaction would not have taken place 100 years ago or maybe even 25 years ago.

So back to the question of how much is enough? Well I guess it depends on who you want to be in the zero sum game.

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Search Engine Optimization by Guest Blogger Chris, Rain Networks

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a very popular thing right now. Small businesses are depending on search engine listings to either grow their business or to even get business at all. As a web developer, I get a lot of questions about SEO and how we (Rain Networks) can help
people get listed on Google and Yahoo!
Q: Can you get my website listed at the top of Google’s list of search results?

A: Yes and no. We design websites with search engines in mind. We make sure that if Google visits your website, they will be able to get the information they need. We do not, however, guarantee that your website will be listed at the top of the search results. Search engine results
are determined by the search engines themselves. We can only give them
what they want and hope they put you at the top of the list.

Q: What does Google use to determine your ranking on search results?

A: They use tons of factors (some of which we have no control over).
Probably the most influential factor is other websites having a link to
your website and if that website is a credible source. For example, a
link to your website on joesdiner.com will not help your listing as
much as having a link on cnn.com. Additionally, the source must have
something to do with the industry you’re in. For example, linking to
car parts on a motorcycle website does no good.

Q: Do meta tags help my ranking?

A: The short answer, no. Meta tags really only help after your website
shows up on the search results page. For example, the “description
tag”, which briefly describes what your website is all about, shows up
under the title of the search engine listing. This only helps users
determine if they should click the link or not. It doesn’t actually
help your link show up higher on the list.

Q: Do you recommend paying Google to put my link on search result pages (i.e. pay-per-click advertising)?

A: Yes! If anything, try it to see if it will help your business. Some
businesses benefit enormously from paying Google, but others see no
results. The good news is that you can determine exactly how much you
want to spend. Whether it be $2 a day, or $2,000 a month. Of course,
how much you spend will determine how successful your advertising will
be.

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USB 3.0 Available Now!

Why Is USB 3.0 Needed?

The short Answer is Speed & Power, let me explain.

USB is 10 times faster than USB 2.0 & 100 time faster than USB 1.1 & While using less power; which for portable devices like an Ipod power is more important than speed.

usb-30a

For Small Files less than 1Gb, USB 2.0 is fine, although as I get older I realize more and more time is the 1 commodity I am always short on.

USB 3.0 SPEED

USB potential Communications Speeds

·         USB 1.1 Communication Speed 4.8Mbs

·         USB 2.0 Communication Speed  480Mbps

·         USB 3.0 Communication Speed  4.8Gbps

Here is a real world example of download times from the official USB organization www.usb.org

256 Flash

USB Flash

Sd-Movie

USB Flash

Blu-Ray Movie

256Mb

1 GB

6 GB

16 GB

25 GB

USB 1.0

5.7 Minutes

22 Minutes

2.2 Hours

5.9 Hours

9.3 Hour

USB 2.0

8.5 Seconds

33 Seconds

3.3 Minutes

8.9 Minutes

13.9 Minutes

USB 3.0

0.8 Seconds

3.3 Seconds

20 Seconds

53.3 Seconds

70 Seconds

USB 3.0 Saves Power

Not a big deal for Desktop devices plugged into 120Volts but huge for portable devices.

While USB 2.0 Polls individual devices asking if they have anything to transfer USB 3.0 Devices & Hosts only transmit only when they have Data to Transfer. So if you have an Ipod, a Zune or some other portable USB Device they aren’t always using power telling the USB Bus that I have nothing to talk about, now if we can only implement this technology on telemarketers. J

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Microsoft Tag-Way Cool

What the heck is a Microsoft Tag-you might be asking yourself? Well it is something pretty new and innovative from Microsoft and it looks like this:

websitebarcodepng2

 

Now if you have the application for your cell phone (you can get it here for free)
you can just aim your cell with the Tag application open at the image above and it will add the information to your telephone. Above is a real tag I made (making a tag is free too). And believe me-if I can do it anyone can.

Now I have your interest let’s do something fun. I want you to go to the link above where you can get the application for your cell phone and download it-I’ll wait here while you open a new browser page and download………….

Welcome Back! Now bring the application up on your cell phone, hold the phone up to your monitor and center the image above between the red lines and see what
happens. Don’t worry it won’t do anything scary or take you to a nefarious web site…………..

How cool is that? It took you to Connectzone’s website. It’s a new spin on the old idea of a bar code but think about the applications.

Make a Tag for your business contact info, put it on your business card, give it to a customer and they can immediately upload your info into their cell
phone. The customer can take the cell home from from a meeting or trade show and upload your contact info into his or her PC.

How about you are a restaurant owner with a giant billboard and you put a Tag on the billboard? Anyone driving by with a cell phone could get info about your restaurant from your website-driving directions-hours-maybe even make a reservation.

You could put one on your email signature for your website, blog or contact information. You could make a Tag for a promotion or sale items in your signature or website. Tag your product pagacking so your customers can easily be navigated to the product on your website. You could put it on party invitations and give directions to your house. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination!

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Connectzone.com is Purple and Gold

We have a few sneaky relatives that are Crimson and Gray but we are Purple and Gold. For us that means it is T-20 days until spring football practice at the University of Washington.

So here are some interesting things to things about:

How cute can a mascot be-I mean really? Seriously?  Totally? Meet “Dubs”. Could he be any cuter-especially compared to a duck? A beaver? Get real!

Next time you are all kinds of sideways mad that Jake Locker spent most of last season on the bench-well just watch this video and make sure your speakers are on, full volume. Side note-Jake please don’t play baseball this year!

And Yep it’s a new era here at UW with the Sark! Ducks, Beavs, Cougs-hope you enjoyed last year ’cause we are so over it……………

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Weird Science-Hydrodynamics & Robotics

Connectzone was recently contacted by some students at Embry-Riddle
Aeronautical University. They were trying to acquire some waterproof
connectors for the science competition they are involved in. Connectzone of course happy to help in research and good old fashion competition gave them discounted “student pricing” on LTW brand products. As follows is a newspaper write up on the competition they took first place in last year:

ERAU Underwater Robotics Team wins first competition

By Paula Rhoden

The Daily Courier

Thursday, June 12, 2008

PRESCOTT – The Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Underwater Robotics Research Team has set the bar high.

In its first competition, and first year of existence, the Flying Goldfish brought home the first-place trophy for college level at the second annual National Underwater Robotics Challenge at Chandler High School on June 6-8.

The team also received a special judges award for its unique design.

René Valenzuela, Cory Ravetto and Eduardo Moreno formed the Underwater Robotics Research Team to explore a different field of study – hydrodynamics.

The young men built an underwater remote-controlled robot capable of retrieving items from the sea floor. Its circular shape and dome was a contrast to the box shapes of most of the other entries. The team mounted a camera in the dome that provided a 360-degree view.

Valenzuela said a 30-minute pool competition was just one part of the scoring. Judges also looked at the team’s technical report, oral presentation,

video submission and website.

The true test came when it was time to put their robot in the water. Its round shape and running lights caused quite a stir.

The organizers based the underwater mission scenario on the book “The Hot Zone” and the movie “Outbreak.”

The mission required competitors to recover submerged objects, take measurements, and decode underwater acoustic signals in order to stop the advance of an ebola epidemic.

Each team’s pilot navigated their robot through a military airplane crash off the coast of Senegal. The robots would try to recover vials of serum, the transport’s flight recorder and the Personal Data Assistant of a world-renowned researcher containing valuable scientific
data to prevent a worldwide pandemic.

Valenzuela said the team experienced a few problems.

“A couple of our magnets fell off. We had glued them on with superglue, but when the robot went into the chlorinated pool water, they came off. Also, our lights were in a fixed position and reflected back into the dome,” he said.

Moreno piloted the robot. He said he could have used more practice.

“The pilot can only see what the camera picks up and shows on a television,” Moreno said.

While Valenzuela and Ravetto could watch the action from the side of
the pool, they could not communicate with Moreno during the competition.

“More time for preparation is definitely necessary, as is practice piloting the robot in the water,” Valenzuela said.

Moreno said they hope their success will encourage other ERAU students to join the club. He said that since the competition is open to high school students, they hope to make contact with local students and create an interest in underwater robotics.

Contact the reporter at prhoden@prescottaz.com

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