Peace One Day Celebration 2013

Rare slideshow by Hugh MacLeod. It is a commercial, but also an interesting read.

 

 

 

We all want to be young

This video explains a few things, specially if you are over 30.

The internet and digital as a whole has changed the way people relate to each other and nobody masters this better than the Millenials. Baby Boomer and Gen X laied the foundations for all of this and if you have been involved in technology, then you know how this evolved and how difficult it was to interact, but now, thanks to broadband and mobility, this becomes extreamly easy. The Millenials think and act very different because of this, but technology has not stopped evolving, so how will this next step affect the way of thinking of the post-millenial generation?

Getting started with Service Portfolio Management

Well, it has been certainly a long time since I had the time to write something here, mostly due to lack of time, but also due to no exciting things to share in this space. Now I do have some good news, namely that I got a new position and with that a new challenge, and that is building the Service Portfolio Management practice.
As a first step, I went to the source: ITILv3, which is the latest version and it has a book about Service Strategy, so I´m starting to read that. I also had a chat with Gartner on this topic and I got several research papers to read now.

They recomended the following list:

  • Designing Customer-Focused Service Portfolios
  • Know the Difference Between Service Portfolios and Service Catalogs
  • Toolkit: Best Practices in Developing an Infrastructure Service Portfolio
  • Know Your Services; Know Your Customers
  • Document the IT Service Portfolio Before Creating the IT Service Catalog
  • Mature Your IT Service Portfolio
  • Toolkit Decision Framework: Top 10 Evaluation Criteria for IT Service Portfolio Management Products and Vendors

If you know how Gartner works, then you know that I can´t share these papers with you.

So, there is plenty of stuff to read and hopefully I can share some of my findings with you.

The Story of Change

While I was doing some research on Change Management (or Management of Change if you prefer), I came across this video, that tells the story of Whole Systems Change from the sixties to the present. This was shooted  on March 30, 2008 during the Nexus for Change Conference at Bowling Green, Ohio and posted by Holger Nauheimer on You Tube.

Part 1: The sixites, the seventies and the early eighties.

Part 2: The late eighties, and the nineties.


Part 3: The late nineties until the present.

One of the starting points for any research I have to do on Change is with Holger Nauheimer’s Change Management Toolbook, a site I highly recommend, and his blog that is worth to follow if you are interested in the subject.

I hope you enjoy this as much as I did

Going Portable

A few weeks ago, I decided to go portable… I mean using portable applications, and the obvious place to start for me was heading to portableapps.com. They do have a nice framework to put on an USB stick and the quality of the open source applications they put out are really good, but I do use a few apps that are not open source, like Skype, and I really wanted those on my kit too. Googling around, I found two other good sites with many more applications, namely pendriveapps.com (that has the portable Skype tip) and The Portable Freeware Collection, which has a ton of (as the name implies) freeware applications and instructions on how to portabilize them. There are a few classic ones I had put immediately on the stick, like Firefox, OpenOffice.org, Filezilla, Putty, Notepad++ and a bunch of other tools I like to have around, just in case I need them.

Besides Skype, there are two other applications I use quite a lot and without them, my portable office would be incomplete: Evernote and My Life Organized (MLO) which I use as my GTD trusted system as I explained here. Fortunately both of them have portable versions. For Evernote, you actually have to install the desktop version and from there choose the menu option that allows you to install the portable one. Then you could get rid of the desktop version. For MLO, you just have to copy the folder from your desktop install, export your license and copy that to the stick too. That’s all you need and both work flawlessly.

As the designated family tech support I also use TeamViewer (a free for non commercial use remote control software) to support my dispersed family’s and friends’ PCs. Being myself located in Brazil, my mother and daughter in Buenos Aires, a brother and sister in Munich and friends over in New Jersey and Florida, makes this an indispensable tool to have around. Sometimes I even use it from the office to help my wife back home around some issues. TeamViewer has a simple client to run on the other end that generates an ID that I use to connect over http (so I can bypass any firewall) to the remote desktop and do whatever is needed to fix the problem.

For the time being, everything works fine with my kit that takes almost all my 2Gb stick’s space, even though I’m a little bit concerned with the write cycles a USB pendrive has, so I might eventually switch to a small portable hard drive, but nothing beats such a small stick with all those apps in there!

Laxi Taxi photo courtesy of F.M. Manufacturing, Inc., © Matt Rupp Photography, All rights reserved.

Organizing my digital music

Now that I have my digital photo collection under control, I had to tackle my music. I usually ripp my Jazz CDs with Exact Audio Copy so that I can listen to them wherever I go. The problem here is that I have to edit the tags manually and that takes some time. Inspired by my photo organizing work I did the last weeks, I went out googling around for a similar tool set I had put together for my picture.
In the past, I tried a tool that indexes you music (like Picasa for photos) and I gave that a shot first. It is known as Mediamonkey and the latest version is really very nice. It works with my new Vista PC and I can skin it so that it blends into my desktop nicely. The free version does almost everything I need to do right now, but there is also a Pro version that will set you back $19.95, but this one has a few really interesting features, like automatic library updates, unlimited mp3 encoding, virtual CD previews and advanced filter. With the free version, you can synchronize iPods or mp3 players, manages playlists, convert between formats, rip CDs, level volume while you play your music and does the most important thing, it manages your entire collection! You could even get it to work with Winamp plugins if you need to.

While I was looking for this, I stumbled upon a nice batch renamer and tag editor, Tagscanner is very similar to what FotoAlbum 6 does for my picture collection, but for ID3 tags. You could select several files and and set tags for all of them at once, like album title or artist. Once you got all the tags with the right data, you could rename the files using them the way you want. It uses metavariables to do that, just like Siren for my pictures. It has a ton of other features that complement very nicely Mediamonkey.

Now I’m ready to get my music organized!

Organizing my digital photos

Keeping my digital photos organized has become a rather large task. First keeping a meaningful structure, then finding naming convention that suits my needs and then finding the renaming tool that could implement that naming convention. Besides of that, I wanted some kind of tool that allowed me to find and preview the pictures beyond what the native Windows tools provided.
As probably anybody else, I started with the software tools that came with my first camera. This was a Fuji Fine Pix camera and the tool that came with it was not that bad at all, at least not for me, a non pro photographer. Then I stumbled upon Picasa -later acquired by Google- and I loved the interface and the ability to email pictures directly out of it on a reduced size. Before I had to make a copy of the pictures I wanted to email, launch whatever photo editing software I had and reduce the picture to something reasonable for email. I’m talking here point and shoot family kind of pictures. I also started to create sideshows for family and friends, and Picasa came in really handy for that.
So I lived for a while the Fuji Fine Pix software mainly as a renaming tool, and Picasa as an basic editing (red eye removal and cropping) and archiving tool, but eventually I hit the archiving wall. I do store my pictures in folders and copy those folders to CD/DVD, but I started to lose track of what I had off-line, and looking for an older photo was not an easy task anymore. Picasa does not keep track of the ones on CD/DVD, so I had to start looking for something else. It took me literally years to find something that worked for me, since everything I found was part of a bloated suite of utilities I didn’t need or wanted and with a pricetag attached to them that was always more as I wanted to shell out.
The other day I was looking for something else and came across a blogpost at Lifehacker that gave some hints about Picasa. Down there in the comments I found two gems, one was regarding a cataloging tool, somehow similar to Picasa know as FotoAlbum Pro 6 that is a lot better than Picasa. It not only has the archiving piece I was looking for, but also an easy way of adding comments, captions and tags (or keywords) to the pictures. In Picasa it is rather difficult to do that. For captions you have to go to each picture to add them and then hit Ctrl-K to be able to add some tags. Both will be embedded in the picture, which is nice, but this is very time consuming. In FotoAlbum you could do this for several pictures at once and you could also add and see several other EXIF, IPTC and XMP Metadata. It uses a SQLite database to keep track of everything, even on which disc you archived your pictures. It keeps the thumbnail image and when you asks to see that photo, it prompt you for the right media and copies that file back to your hard drive. The Pro version will set you back $39.95, but there is also a free version that has most of the nice things (but not the archiving functionality I was looking for).
FotoAlbum has also a batch renaming functionality in the Pro version, but it seems limited to what I need. I was lately using RenameMaster, a very nice and free file renaming utility from JoeJoe’s Software, but on the same comments of that blogpost from Lifehacker, I found a link to Siren, another free renaming utility, similar to RenameMaster, but with several improvements. It also works with variables that allows you to compose any naming convention you wish, using not only EXIF data, but also IPTC and XMP metadata and you could save your particular combinations under Favorites. You could use this one not only for pictures, but for any kind of files, including mp3′s and videos.

Now I do have a pretty good set of tools, and with my new PC -which has plenty of disc space available- I’m going to work on all these pictures and archive them properly!

Email Overload

Who doesn’t suffer from email overload these days? Even my 75 year old mother sometimes claims she’s getting too much email!

Some time last year, I found this nice add-in for Outlook (yes, that’s what I have to use at work) that does and incredible job in prioritizing and organizing my email. It has even the right name: Clear Context It does a lot of other nice things too, like scheduling something out from an email into my calendar with the push of a button, or creates a task from a message.

The feature I like the most and use all the time is something very simple but very timeconsuming: filing messages. IMS implements a nice way of doing it by keeping track of the folder/topic you assign for the very first message in a thread, and then it just remembers it. You could either press the File Message or the File thread to get them out of you inbox and into the right folder. Your replys are also filed in the same folders if you whish, so you keep the whole conversation together. This is something I really like!

You could also defer messages and get them out of the way until sometime in the future, where they pop-up again as a new message. Isn’t that something nice?

Another powerfull functionality is a set of views for your inbox that puts the real important stuff right at the top. You could tweak this quite a bit, so all those powerusers out there would love this. By pressing the Related View button you get a powerfull view of all items related to that specific email you’re looking at. All this makes it a snap to find that important emial buried deep in some folder.

If you have to concentrate on your really important tasks instead of working your email all the time, the Alert function comes in really handy. Once set up, it will  only notify you if there are messages that need your immediate attention. That is a productivity booster!

As you know, I’m also experimenting with GTD and yes, Clear Context helps with this too. They even have a guide explaining how to use their product with David Allen’s methodology.

I’ve used Clear Context since version 2 and they have recently released version 4 of this marvel. Here‘s a demo you might enjoy while getting the opportunity to appreciate all the new stuff they are putting into this version.

Clear COntext

Death by PowerPoint

While reading some exciting stuff at Lifehacker I came across this really great presentation on presentations. It was done by Alexei Kapterev, a russian presentation designer and consultant who got the point.

Here it is… enjoy.

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