A Piano Gets a New Life

A baby grand piano is an intricate piece of musical technology—more complex than some of the computer systems we repair, manage , and sometimes renovate.  Recently, we needed work to be done on our family piano, an Estey baby grand built in 1929. It is a classic beauty, but it was beginning to show its age, and it needed lots of work. It needed to be tuned, but before it could be tuned it needed to be  restored and renovated.  Elisabeth, who studied piano at the Boston Conservatory, found the website of a company in West Chester that specializes in the repair and restoration of grand pianos.  We  are always anxious to pass on good news and to recommend great service providers as we find them, so in this post we are highlighting Sweeney Piano, a family company that has been specializing in grand pianos for 30 years.  All of our realtor friends and clients should take note, because many times people who are buying a new home may need to move or repair a grand.  We highly recommend the work of Sweeney Piano.

An Informative and Attractive Website

As promised on their website, they exceeded our expectations for quality and service delivery.  The website is attractive and informative.  Michael and Lisa Sweeney have built a great business, and you get a feel for their high quality standards when you visit the site.  Our piano required a mix of technical work and  artistic refinishing of wood and metal.  To these two prime attributes they added effective communication skills, as they kept us posted about progress—right up to the delivery date, which they hit exactly.  Here’s a picture they sent as the work neared completion:

sweeney piano

If you value your grand piano, and want it treated with care  for any needed repairs or renovation, contact the hard-working folks at Sweeney Piano for service you can count on—for yourself, your friends, or your clients.

As for us, we now have many hours of enjoying Elisabeth’s playing, and we are always happy to find a service company that shares our values..

Bill Patch





Internet Writing Doesn’t Have to be Bad

The level of public discourse—in emails, Tweets, and Facebook posts and message boards–  is discouragingly low.  It is profane, gramatically incorrect, and not courteous.  It is rough and insulting, and oft-times mean-spirited.

Some people blame technology—It is easy to hide behind the computer screen,with a degree of anonymity, and throw prose stones.  While it’s easy to be anonymous doing a crude posting to a message board, the other forms of computerized communication actually expose the writer. In business emails are written by individuals who used to have secretaries to correct their grammar and language. People tend to treat emails informally, like they were talking to someone, not writing to them.  Gmail even calls them “conversations”….  And, folks get informal, and they start using slang, and they sometimes use sarcasm, or they make a snide remark, trying to be funny…But, it’s not  a conversation, and when it shows  up on the recipient’s screen, it’s just text.  There’s no facial expression to let the recipient know you are fooling, or making a joke.  Sarcasm shows up as a literal statement.  Anybody reading the email sees the person’s writing directly–unfiltered and usually without editing. This generates another problem—people don’t seem to be receiving effective grammar and language  instruction in school.  I don’t know whether teachers simply tired of trying to teach what for most is a boring, tedious subject, or whether school districts just removed grammar and parts of speech from curricula, but  many emails and other documents in business are starting to show that the writers did not get a good background in grammar and language, and many are spelling and using words phonetically.  This gets people in trouble with possessive pronouns and contractions of pronouns that sound the same.  Thus, they confuse and misuse:  Its and It’s, There,  Their, and They’re;  and Your and You’re.


So….emails show up on screens and make a bad impression, or sometimes no impression, or sometimes they hurt peoples’ feelings .


Emails are not verbal,they are a document, and they can be more effective if they are well-written. The overall Internet writing problem hit a new low  this past week, as people took to Twitter and message boards to denounce the Miss America winner. Because the young woman was Indian, she was called a terrorist, an Arab, and worse.  The nasty tone  and ignorance of the messages  that appeared were embarrassing.


Once you hit the send button, your words may appear in a virtually infinite number of locations. Internet writing is important.  People need to be more careful , and even more cordial and courteous, in the writing they do in the many  electronic venues now available. Workshops should be held to give folks some skills in writing emails and Facebook and other postings–for business or personal use. Good grammar and language create writing that respects the recipient. Angry, selfish communications degrade both the writer and the reader.

Bill Patch








Wearable Technology is Here

Forty-one years ago, when I started in the computer industry, computers were serious machines.  They were big, filling a whole room.  They whirred, blew fuses, spit out long complex reports, sucked up lots of air conditioning, and had nice red and green blinking lights.  The reports they produced were used to run large organizations, including businesses and serious government agencies.  Only highly-qualified people could actually approach the machines and do something with them.  But we’ve evolved now, and computers are everywhere, being used  to play Candy Crush, look at pictures on Facebook, and send 140-characters-or-less messages to the world.    We have devices that we use to get news, play games, and talk to each other.  All these devices use the same basic zeroes- and-ones computing technology that powered the first behemoths.  The Technology  Industry  is now betting that we need our devices with us so much, we’ll actually be willing to wear them .  Last week Samsung   announced its new Smartwatch, The Gear.samsung smart watch




Business Insider,  a technology industry information provider, forecasts that worldwide spending on smartwatches will rise steadily to $ 9Billion in sales by 2018.  If I were Samsung, however, I wouldn’t count on those billions just yet.  Even though we have shown a seemingly endless demand for the conspicuous consumption of computerized devices—Have you ever seen two people sitting together in a room, texting, rather than talking?—I think $300 a pop is a bit much in today’s economic environment, and wearing our technology just might be an over-step.


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 –Bill Patch 9/12/2013






Collateral Damage from the PC's Demise

Insights and learning can occur at any time, even when you are playing.  This week hundreds of thousands of Fantasy Football players are going through the draft process, where each player gets to select NFL players that will be on his or her fantasy team.  You can choose from ANY NFL player.    Since there are about one gazillion NFL players, most fantasy team owners spend time previous to their league’ draft to whittle down all the players to the ones they want to try to get in the draft.My son and I have a team in a great league, and we have lots of fun evaluating all the  NFL players, and then selecting which ones we want to draft for our team.  This year, after  a couple planning sessions, we have reduced the number of desirable players  to a total of 194 players.  Once we selected  this Meta-level total number eligible, to manage the data and to make a useful tool to keep track on draft night, we needed to divide the 194 into eight position categories ( Quarterback, Running Back, etc.)  Within each of those eight categories, we then needed to be able to rank the players, from best to worst, to help guide our draft picks.   So…We had 194 data elements that needed to be grouped and stack-ranked in eight categories.

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In years past, we would  use Microsoft Office software to produce the draft list.  Sometimes, manually horsing the data elements into Word tables, and sometimes using Excel spreadsheet lists.  Either way, once we were done, and the table or the spreadsheet was completed, it became what I will call static data.    The lists could be modified, but a change created a new version of the list.  Microsoft Office products have been ubiquitous on the corporate scene for almost ten years.  In some companies, it became customary for each manager/executive -level person to have a Powerpoint presentation of what they were doing, what projects, etc, available on the desktop or laptop, to be used whenever needed to explain oneself, or one’s group.  We also used Powerpoint and Excel for sales presentations…Here’s a scenario that many of us experienced at one time or another:
You’re on the way to the airport, accompanied by members of your team, ready to travel to a potential new customer .  Your laptop is loaded with what you think is latest version of the presentation.  In conversation with the team members, it comes to light that the meeting last night continued for a couple hours after you left, and the numbers in the presentation have been modified.  So much for the 12 nicely-bound copies you have in your briefcase—they are dead meat—and so are you, unless you can produce some copies of the new version.  Here’s another common scenario:  You’re on the phone with the prospect, trying to negotiate a nice new deal.  You drill down on some of the numbers, giving some reductions that you hope will close the deal.  The problem is—The prospect is looking at a previous version of the document, which had been emailed to him two days before. People looking at different versions of data and documents was common. Contrast these uncomfortable, low productivity scenarios with how we were able to deal with our muli-category, 194 data element fantasy football list…We used Google drive’s spreadsheet application, and we both accessed the speadsheet at the same time.  We discussed a number of changes to the stack-rank.  The data was viable, not static.    There is only one version of the data–the correct one, and now we can enjoy the fun of competing with other players to draft great players.  The ease of the process we used made me think about what’s going on in the technology industry.  As we have discussed in this space previously, the machine that revolutionized the computer industry in the early 80s–the desktop PC, (and its laptop version), has essentially died as a viable product.  Companies that tied their strategy to the PC are now beginning to disintegrate.  Micosoft’s CEO and former henchman for Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer, is resigning.  They are seeking to transform the company into a “devices and services” company.  They used to be, of course, the world’s leading PC software provider.  They missed the transition to mobile devices, and they missed the new Software As A Service (SaaS) model   They stayed with static-data applications sold for license fees; and they never learned how to sell to endusers, they only knew how to muscle PC manfactuers and distributors into selling their operating system bundled with the machine.

The PC’s Time Is Gone—-Continued

As we discussed in this space  in February, the machine that revolutionized the IT industry by putting  computing capability on the desktops of people everywhere has become obsolete.  Today, you could connect a wireless keyboard to your smartphone and have more computing power than  you had with the second desktop you owned.  And, more importantly, you could do all the things you want to do today.   Gartner, Inc, the respected market research firm , has announced  that worldwide PC sales declined by 10.9% in Q2 2013.   This is the fifth consecutive quarterly decline., the longest in the history of the PC market.


one quarter of searches from mobile devices

Microsoft Market Leverage Declines

In the good old days in the PC business—back in the 90s—millions of units were sold each MONTH through the channel, and millions more by direct provider Dell.  In those days, the release of a new version of Windows would dramatically produce a big increase in units sold.  Microsoft actually drove the market.  Now, it is worth noting that the release of Windows 8 occurred during the declining quarter. The new Widows version didn’t create a pop in sales, it couldn’t even prevent a decline. Microsoft used to be successful by piggybacking its operating system sales to PC sales.  MS didn’t really need to market and sell Windows, it just had to control the PC manufacturers and make sure that Windows was shipped with each box.  There are clear implications in the new market for Microsoft.  The two leading PC producers are Lenova, with a 16.7% share of the market and 12,677,265 units sold.  HP is in 2nd place ,with 16.3% share and 12,402,887 units.  It’s interesting that HP has recently teamed with Microsoft’s adversary, Google, to market  PCs bundled with Google’s cloud -based office suite that competes directly with Microsoft’s Office software product.  This is confusing to HP’s channel distribution partners, who for years have been tied closely to—even receiving direction and support (dollars for marketing programs)  from—Microsoft.  So, while Google competes with Microsoft’s Office and Windows products, and Microsoft tries to Bing Google’s search service, businesses  have decided they don’t need employees to sit at their desks  inputting to and/or reporting from cumbersome custom applications that run on the expensive server in  the basement (think TPS reports), and the endusers have decided that they  certainly don’t need over-built  and under-supported desktop computing systems at home to search or to use the non- cumbersome personal apps, which are all increasingly available for mobile devices.  The desktop PC is obsolete. A second revolution— replacement of the desktop by mobile devices has occurred. The PC taught us, and made endusers of all of us.  Now, light, fast, ubiquitous mobile products  have become more convenient and they provide enough capability for what we want to do—-at least until the technology of the cloud and the need for Big Data and Big Screens puts pressure on the capability of the device at hand.

Bill Patch, August 8, 2013


BParadoxically, the pinnacle of technology development–the   Worldwide Web–has provided us with the most personalized communication medium ever.   The success of Facebook, Twitter, and other social sites , show just how personal the Web has become.


Personal  now includes pictures of you, your family, and your friends, and everybody’s puppies and kittens., Personal also includes your innermost profound thoughts (in 140 characters).  Every day, we all can now have an experience  equivalent to what it used to be like to get your picture or name in the newspaper; but now many more millions can see it,   and the image will endure–not expire, like yesterday’s newspaper. We’ve become used to seeing real people,–personalized  up-to-date images–served up with our daily information bits.  The cold, hard , cerebral technology of processing zeroes and ones has given us  the warmest and fuzziest format to express ourselves—-an interesting paradox; but the question becomes:  How do we best use this technical art form?


WordPress Platform Provides the Freedom to Express Yourself

WordPress website themes provide just the right amount of standardized features and open space to create sites that fully communicate individual attributes and features.  The layout and format of WordPress sites provide the most effective size and location relations and ratios of images to content, and  a clean and clear platform to create customized content.  The custom content could–and should– include a blog with more than 140 characters of your own thoughts, and images that you choose to display that particular day.


This results in websites that express the uniqueness of the persons or enterprises that are the subject of the site.   WordPress themed sites  live up to  today’s demand for personalized technology.  The look and feel of WordPress sites provide maximum freedom of expression, while the Open Source  architecture  and structure of the site provide maximum stability and security. Blazing Systems LLC designs, develops, hosts, and maintains WordPress websites for clients who want to  express themselves most effectively.







WordPress Is a Powerful Platform

WordPress is a state-of-the-art web publishing platform.  First released in 2003,  as a simple blog platform, it has grown to become one of the most popular website platforms, powering over 60 million sites. Some of the reasons why WordPress users love their sites include:wordpress-logo

  • Open Source.   Word Press is an Open Source system.  No license fees are charged for its use.
  • Standards Compliant.   WordPress conforms to standards developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), an international community led by Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee and CEO Jeffrey Jaffe.  W3 C’s mission is “to lead the Web to its full potential .”   W3C standards define an Open Web Platform for development and design, in HTML, CSS, SVG,  AJAX, and other technologies for web applications and  how to make pages accessible to people with disabilities (WCAG), how to internationalize them, and how to make them work on mobile devices. Other W3C standards include the Semantic Web, which refers to helping to support”a web of data,” to enable computers to do more useful work and to develop systems that can support trusted interactions over the network.  “Semantic data” refers to W3C’s vision of the web of linked data, enabling people to create data stores on the web, build vocabularies, and create rules for handling data.


By complying with W3C standards, WordPress protects not only the integrity and viability of the content on user websites, but also the long-term stability of the sites themselves
. Word Press’adherence to W3C standards provides protection and peace-of-mind for users


  • Easy to Use.   The WordPress platform  provides effective tools and support to create customized websites.  The administration section is easy to use and understand.  The content management system  is user-friendly, and content can be added or changed with ease.(Some Blazing Systems clients, in fact, prefer to perform content changes and updates themselves—even though we’ll  provide that service for free!)
  • Powerfully flexible.   Word Press sites are available in hundreds of different themes, which define how the site looks and what features are available to visitors.   Similarly, the WordPress platform supports almost 25,000 plugins—features that can be deployed on individual websites to customize them to be most effective.  Plugins include functions like  site maps, SEO, social media, galleries, polls, and guestbooks.     Enhance the attraction of your site with a blog—Word Press’  original focus is still a strength.



Get A Word Press Website to Love:

Blazing Systems  builds, hosts, and maintains Word Press websites.  Hundreds of options, including a blog that works to increase your visibility on the web, are great options to have, but having an expert to help choose and deploy those options  makes it even better. To get the full advantage of all the powerful tools and customization available with the Word Press platform, you need a partner with the  experience and skills to maximize the value of your site, and to  securely host  and maintain it —-all for an affordable cost..   Get a great website with  no hassle.









The PC's Time is Gone

Several current news items clearly show that the personal computer–the primary driving force product in the IT industry since 1980—has become just a minor piece of hardware .  The first set of data shows that the PC has been replaced by the mobile phone.  In Q04 2010, 92 million PCs were sold,while 101 million smartphones were sold.  By 2014 there will be over 1 billion smartphone users.  Nearly all Generation Y consumers own a mobile phone of some kind and 72 percent own smartphones  Over three-quarters of Americans age 43 and under now use a smartphone.   53 percent of American consumers use their smartphones to access search engines at least once a day.  Smartphones and tablet computers will increase mobile Web traffic by 26 times during the next four years.  The  other current news items that are pointing to the demise of the PC include:


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  • Dell, the company that mastered the low-cost commodity distribution strategy for PCs, is struggling, and its board is asking its founder to buy it and take it private.
  • HP, the company that tried to save itself by buying Compaq, perhaps the premier desktop provider,is thrashing around , generating rumors of a break-up.
  • BillGates, the master of the PC product world, is now seeking to invest,not in PC-related businesses, but rather in the next-generation condom maker!

These major events have been driven by more than just the rise in mobile phones, but the smartphone is clearly taking over some of the key uses previously performed by the PC—like eCommerce ( now it’s mCommerce. )  Dell–although they undoubtedly beat the market by being the cost/price leader, never did get a toehold in account management via professional services.  Dell was just the cheapest commodity box maker.  HP,  for years looked successful because of their dominance in the desktop printer market.    The results produced by that dominance masked the deep problems and old-fashioned vision inside the company.   They never succeeded as a system solution provider, and their service business never evolved from the primitive break/fix cost center model.  They hoped that buying Compaq’s line of high-end servers would help them succeed as a mid-range system provider, but their stodgy approach to services locked them into the commodity product corner.


When you live by the product–instead of providing needed canadian online pharmacy services to your customers— you die when the product gravy train is interrupted by the next best thing.

Yahoo’s WFH Problem Is Management, Not Policy

Marissa Mayer

Yahoo CEO, Marissa Mayer,recently made news when she banned all Work-from -Home (WFH) for all Yahoo employees. Part of the reason why this was news-worthy is that Yahoo had been aggressive in extending WFH and flexible hours to employees.  In the early years of the commercialization of the Internet—during the late 90s–Yahoo was one of the pillars of the Internet community.  Its success helped fuel the irrational exuberance that inflated the Internet Bubble.  In those days, Yahoo was an innovator, a leader, and a cool place to work; and it was growing rapidly.  It was a place you could go to find other places on the Internet—a kind of directory of websites. Yahoo ‘s revenue model was unique to the technology industry,but it was basically the same as network television’s—sponsors paying for advertisements.  Yahoo unfortunately got caught up in the marketing “wisdom” of the day, which said, “Just like with Nielsen ratings in TV, the more eyes you have on the screen, the more you can charge advertisers.  So, instead of concentrating on building a fast,efficient search of the Internet’s content, Yahoo tried to be a destination itself–a place where users would visit and spend lots of time looking at and clicking on ads.  The Internet marketing gurus called it making your site “sticky.”  Greatly underestimating the intelligence of the users, Yahoo thought people needed a “portal” to the Internet, a starting point, an on-ramp to the Information Highway. So they built a site that streamed information at the users,who were actually ready for a gateway that would take them quickly to where they wanted to go.  So, instead of being Google, Yahoo ended up being a sticky-portal-thing for people who needed their Internet spoonfed to them. Yahoo missed the search engine market, just as it would miss the social media market; but it was successful right up through 2000, when the Bubble burst.


Arrogance and Hubris

The history of the computer industry is filled with examples of companies that enjoyed rapid growth spurts, which were followed by periods of correction.  Even that old grey battleship, IBM, had to re-trench in the 80s after a phenomenal ramp up during the 50s and 60s (when Ross Perot was an IBM salesman, which he said was “Like selling umbrellas on a rainy day.”)   When technology companies are in the rocketing revenue-growth phase, they tend to develop arrogance and hubris.. “Hey …We must be smart—Look at how well we’re doing.’   Also, all of the management attention is on keeping up with the revenue growth—feeding fuel into the engine—not necessarily building infrastructure and processes to efficiently manage the company over the long run.  During the early years of Yahoo’s growth, various policies and programs were put in place to fuel the growth, to attract technical talent.    Arrogance and hubris made it feel invincible, and luxuries were built into the culture.  Arrogance and hubris.  That was when they were riding high, one of the most successful Internet companies.

Top-down Dictates Can’t Overcome Weak Management

During that same time, they implemented one of the most liberal  WFH programs possible, which gave them an advantage in recruiting.  In fact, many people were recuited to work there just because of the promise of being able to work from home.  So they had a very rich entitlement policy, but nobody managed it—they were all too busy enjoying the company’ success and growth rate.  Then, hard times hit and the correction cycle came around.  The management team didn’t know how to reign in the bloated structure, or transition the culture to one focused on cost-effectiveness and productivity.   People started abusing the liberal policies, and the managers couldn’t control the employees’ behavior.  According to reports, Mayer decided to change the WFH policy when she grew frustrated seeing empty employee parking lots.  Banning all WFH is an admission that the company can’t manage the policy.

When the company and its employees lose the advantages of innovative programs due to blanket top-down dictates because a small percentage of employees and managers can’t manage their behavior, the larger percentage of employees—and overall productivity–suffer.

Note:  Another company that once did very well, but now has fallen on tough times—Best Buy— recently announced a similar ban on all flexible hours, closing a program that had been viewed    as an industry leader. Chances are,  managers needed help, rather than  the  cessation and banning of  the policies.


Dvorak Desn’t Like the Cloud

John C. Dvorak, a graduate of UC Berkeley, has been all over the media in recent years, busy as a technology pundit and columnist.

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In a column just published in that old standby, PC Magazine, he references Larry Ellison’s comments about the Cloud that we discussed in this space recently.  The surprise is that Dvorak seems to agree with Ellison.

In fact, the title of his column is, “Back When the Cloud was Dumb.”  Dvorak says that the Cloud is nothing but remote storage and client-server, saying “there is nothing new about remote storage and client-server, and that’s pretty much what we are talking about here. ”

Although Mr. Dvorak has  been official in-house geek and tech-pundit extraordinaire for all sorts of media outlets, including NPR,the NY Times, and Tech TV, he  is not very accurate in his belittling description of the cloud.

Like many seasoned industry vets, he rails against the new term, “cloud computing,”  with an emotional passion.  Like Mr. Ellison, he informs us that there is no water vapor doing the processing, that  it’s just old-fashioned mainframes:  “Why, though, does it have to be called the “cloud?” Where is this cloud anyway? It’s not in the sky and it doesn’t hold water. So why “cloud?”   Then, he goes on to his priority dislike:  the
Internet itself—-which is, of course, the “cloud” in question.   He says, “let us look at the Internet and what it has done. It has completely reversed the revolution that began with the desktop computer. It has returned us to a networked environment with centralized control. ”  Now we see the clue to his real agenda—-Mr. Dvorak believes the Internet has  undone The Revolution!    ( Perhaps it’s that Berkeley influence.)   As he says,”Don’t kid yourself. The entire idea that people should have complete control of their computing needs with complete desktop subsystems, from hard disks to printers to telemetry gear, is frowned upon by a society that prefers centralized control. No matter that centralized control is too expensive!”

But he verges on paranoia when he says,  ” One thing is for certain: They are trying to convince us that the cloud will come and go and come and go when really it’s just old-fashioned mainframe-based distributed computing from 30 years ago all gussied up. They are trying to trick us.”

Really, John?  The whole Internet is a conspiracy, and THEY are trying TRICK us?    Whoa!   If anything, Mr. Dvorak is one of THEM, one of the tech-savvy elite power structure.  But claiming that Cloud Computing is just client/server  is simply wrong.   Like Mr. Ellison, Mr. Dvorak ridicules what he clearly doesn’t understand.   Like Ellison, all he sees are products,   “remote servers, as I would prefer they be called,”  he says.   He misses the point entirely that Cloud Computing refers to a service—it’s about how the information processing is delivered, not what is delivering the processing.   And delivering processing power to endusers on an as-needed basis, with no capital investment required by them, liberates them.  It enables small businesses to get access to the same sophisticated databases and applications that the giant corporations use.  Before Cloud Computing became available, only very rich, large organizations could afford the infrastructure to manage Big Data. Using the Internet to leverage computing capacity creates a level playing field, with small and medium players being able to compete equally.   I would think that Mr. Dvorak’s Berkeley sensitivities would welcome such a  development.

Bill Patch 10/10/2012