Thursday, January 28, 2010

The new browser wars: Flash vs. Swipe

Pardon me for adding yet another iPad analysis (certainly, when a computer product launch makes it into Doonesbury, we have crossed a new threshold of hype), but one thing actually missing from the copious words and videos on yesterday's event at Moscone was the simple fact that we have a new browser war on our hands, and it isn't a pretty sight.

The browser wars of yesteryear between Microsoft and Netscape seem so quaint. (And look what happened to Netsacpe, too.) Today it is all about Adobe Flash versus the multi-touch swipe technology that is part of Apple's product lines.

Why is this a war? Apple's iPod, iTouch, and now iPad all share a lack of support for Adobe's Flash technology, the animation glue that binds Web pages to in-line video playback. When you bring up your Safari browser in these devices, you see a big blank nothing on the pages that have Flash content to play. And what that means to me is that Apple has made it clear: rewrite your sites to support our own technologies (including new apps that are certain to populate the iTunes Store soon), or be forever absent from this brave new world of cool devices that Steve is creating.

I come to the support of Flash most reluctantly, mind you. Flash is a necessarily evil, and for the most part we just don't even think of it when we merrily surf around the Internet, finding new video content to amuse and inform us. (Unless our plug-ins are outdated or messed up, that is.)

Flash will bring about the Internet TV revolution a lot sooner than the misinformed mainstream TV executives will like to admit, too: the more video that gets encoded in Flash, the fewer hours that 20-, 30-, and 40-somethings will spend in front of their living room TVs, if they even have living room TVs anymore. See what has happened to Leno et al. Their best bits are immediately uploaded to YouTube and watched the next morning. That is the power of Flash.

But Apple has its own idea about how to watch video, and it has nothing to do with standards that anyone else creates. It is about making Web content creators develop new iTunes Apps that can deliver their content customized for their devices. Anyone using an ordinary Web browser can be ignored. Granted, they have sold a lot of iPhones, so it isn't a market that has been marginalized like their share of the PC market – but still. Why do so many Web site owners want this? Because of the latest Steve reality distortion field. See the comment about Doonesbury above.

It is ironic, because in the early days, Apple was a big boost to Adobe's Postscript technology, the glue that made printing pretty pages from your PCs possible. But let's not rest on these accidents of history.

Is a multi-touch swipe worth starting a new war? Maybe. Swiping the glass for controlling the display is very intuitive. It is a wonder that more tablet PCs haven't incorporated it yet. In the mean time, we all will be watching and see how this shakes out, but (I can't believe I am saying this) my bet is on Flash.

Monday, January 25, 2010

It's all about the jobs

Even Conan can't keep his job, although I am sure many of us would welcome a multi-million dollar payout as he got last week. But as our economy tries to re-start itself, I have seen first-hand how hard it is for people to get new jobs. Over the past seven months, I have been working with our local Regional Chamber and Growth Association in an effort called the St. Louis Job Angels, to help get information about new jobs quickly disseminated to the right people, and also provide self-help and peer networking to job seekers.

The effort was started nationally by consultant Mark Stelzner and has since become very successful here in St. Louis. We have more than 600 people on our LinkedIn group and a new job is posted almost daily. We also send out the postings via Twitter too, although trying to fit an entire job description into 100 or so characters is a challenge. Based on these efforts, I have some advice for employers and job seekers that I want to share.

First off, if you are going to post your opening online, make sure your Web jobs board is both search and Twitter-friendly. Try to have unique and simple URLs that people can email and Tweet to bring job seekers directly to the position at hand. Put all the information about the job on one page, including salary range, prerequisites, and reasonable experiences and skills required. Include a job number or some other identifying string that job applicants can use and reTweet so that others can quickly find the opening. And be specific about how to be contacted and with what information.

You would be surprised (well, maybe not) how many job openings I look at that don't have this basic information. This isn't rocket science (and we do have a few openings here in St. Louis for rocket scientists, believe me) and you would think that Al Gore still hasn't gotten around to inventing the Internet, what with some of the postings that I see.

Some online job boards that are part of individual companies are behind registration walls, so you have to provide all sorts of information about yourself before you can get to see the actual jobs themselves. Bad idea! You want people to browse your board, because they might see something else that they are more qualified or more interested in.

There is a reason not to skimp on descriptions. The more information you can provide the job seeker, the better and more of a match your applicants will be when it comes time to apply.

The unique URL per job makes it easier to reTweet the openings: you use a URL shortening service such as and you can send out the job post quickly without having to worry that Twitter will mangle the URL or that users won't be able to find it on the Internet someplace.

Some recruiters are told not to divulge the company name for fear that the company will be buried in resumes. Fair enough. But then provide more detail about the job so that applicants can understand what they are getting themselves into.

Also, be fair about telecommuting options. It is time to realize that many of us want to stay put for various reasons. If your management can deal with finding the best candidate in another city, then support this practice. I mean, we are in 2010, people!

Second, spend some time on LinkedIn. Yes, there are still plenty of places where you can post job openings, including Monster, Craigslist, and hundreds of other more specialized sites. And yes, employers should be promiscuous and post openings widely too. But the right use of LinkedIn by both employers and job seekers can be useful.

I keep adjusting my online LinkedIn profile all the time, even though I have had it for many years. I keep forgetting to add particular experiences, or to ask for references from previous bosses. So don't try to create your entire profile in one sitting, but come back to it frequently. I have some more tips on how to improve your LinkedIn presence here if you want to view my slides:

Most of the people I know are still new at using this service, and some are unaware about the more advanced features such as Groups and Answers that can help augment your job searching and make the service more valuable too. Answers can help build your expertise and demonstrate your knowledge of a topic or niche. Groups can be used, as we do for St. Louis Job Angels group, how to find others who share similar traits and can be quickly scanned for updated information.

LinkedIn can be both a blessing and a curse. Getting groups setup is a slow process, and you have to follow an arcane series of rules if you want to play in their sandbox: for example, as group Admin, I can send out exactly no more than one weekly email to the group. I try not to bury people in emails, but still, sometimes you want to get the word out if we have had a lot of postings or some with very short response times.

Third, become better at marketing yourself. One of my colleagues here and the supervisor of the MissouriCareerSource local office, Frank Alaniz, talks about how to develop a resume that will present your qualifications in a way that a job interviewer or HR screener can quickly see you online. Most employers spend less than three minutes reviewing resumes, which means you have to grab them at hello:

Good luck with your own job search, and maybe you too can host a late-night show in the near future.

Using Windows 7 Remote Server Administration Tools

RSAT makes it easier to manage your collection of Windows 2003 and 2008 servers remotely and securely from your Windows 7 desktop. This screencast shows how it works.

There’s plenty to learn, including setting up new file shares, managing the built-in Internet Information Server Web services, handling group policies and other sophisticated features. The installation is somewhat convoluted and you’ll want to spend some time reading the help files too.

See my screencast video at:

Monday, January 11, 2010

Using the Windows 7 PowerShell Scripting Environment

PowerShell ISE is a visual command-line editor that used to be called Graphical
PowerShell. In this video, we show you how to become familiar with its extensive
command set which can be used to automate common tasks.

You may view the latest post at ITExpertVoice here:

About Me

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David Strom has looked at hundreds of computer products over a more than 20 year career in IT and computer journalism. He was the founding editor-in-chief of Network Computing magazine, and now writes for Baseline, Information Security, Tom's Hardware, and the New York Times.