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From time-to-time I review products or services that I've purchased for me, my family, or a client to use. If I didn't pay for it, I'll note that. My intent is to only review products that I actually use. If someone sends me an unsolicited product to try, I may try it and I may review it, but I'll always disclose these things.

If I really like a product or service, I might set up a sponsor link to their site. Sometimes I receive money when people buy something on the sponsor's site, after following my sponsor links. The only way a sponsor link will appear is if I recommend the sponsor (not the other way around). I will also review products (for better or worse) for which I can't, or won't, set up a sponsor link.

Any opinions expressed in the review are my own. Any opinions expressed in the comments are the opinions of the commentor.

The XYZ Factor

I've been reading the book The XYZ Factor: The DoSomething.org Guide to Creating a Culture of Impact.

The book has impressed me with a couple of ideas that will really help anyone that is thinking about the changing workforce, approaching intergenerational staffing, and changing how nonprofits implement their programs and initiatives.

The book could work as an orientation guide for anyone hiring in at dosomething.org, the place where the folks that wrote the book work.

The book spends some time talking about the organization, its processes, and its staff. Since the org serves a young clientele, they also staff young. This creates its own set of opportunities and challenges.

The book covers a lot of ground from things like working with millennials, working with partners, working with interns, and working like a start up.

The organization impressed me with its energy, commitment, thoughtfulness, vitality, and commitment to working from the data, not just the gut.

I'd recommend the book and I'd recommend you check out what dosomething.org is doing, if you are a nonprofit, a start up, working with interns, or just trying to figure out those millenials on your staff.

You can buy the book here, on amazon.

The XYZ Factor: The DoSomething.org Guide to Creating a Culture of Impact.

Review of Microsoft's Bluetooth Mobile Keyboard 6000

I picked up a Microsoft Bluetooth Mobile Keyboard 6000 to leave at a client of mine. I do a lot of onsite software development there and already have an external monitor and docking station there. I always have a bluetooth mouse and wrist pad with me, but I had gotten to the point where I wanted a full keyboard instead of using the keyboard on the laptop.

I'm pretty picky about keyboards. I spend a lot of my time typing either emails, blogs, or, oh yeah, code, so a good keyboard is a must...

Testing Virgin Mobile's Broadband2Go

UPDATE 2/21/2011: It gets worse. I can no longer recommend Virgin Mobile for anyone but those that have no other options. The monthly price went up $10 from $40 to $50 per month and the cap went down from 5GB to 2.5GB before you get throttled. If you have the current plan, you're OK for now, but if anything happens (like your credit card expires) and your plan doesn't stay 100% active, you'll lose the $40 plan and be forced into the more expensive, more limited $50 plan. STAY AWAY FROM VIRGIN MOBILE!

UPDATE 1/17/2011: While my information in this review remains accurate and true for most aspects for Virgin Mobile's BB2G product, they just announced that they are discontinuing the unlimited plan and it is now an "unlimited to 5GB, then you'll be throttled" plan. I can't recommend it anymore as a DSL replacement or "use it if you can't get DSL" plan, except for the lightest of users. When will these companies realize that the real world uses more than 5GB a month?

I decided to try out Virgin Mobile's Broadband2Go data service. We have good Sprint coverage around here and that is the network VM uses.

I chose the USB modem since I didn't need the mifi shared service and the device cost a lot less. I have a router at home that takes USB broadband modems, so that was nice, too.

The modem is an Ovation MC760, so it is compatible with many 3G compatible routers. The cost online was just $79 and the monthly prepaid service is advertised at $40 per month unlimited (without limits). The low cost, Sprint 3G network, and $40 per month all pointed to a pretty good deal for my use.

I ordered the modem online directly from Virgin and had it in two business days. The cost online was $79 vs. $99 from Best Buy, so I went that way.

I did have a few problems installing it...

Reviews: VLC Media Player

I really like the VLC open source media player. It is a great little (17mb) player that handles just about everything with a clean and tidy interface. It runs great using default settings, yet provides either a simple or complex view into all of the possible options you might want in a media player.

While I still use Windows Media Player for my music collection database, I use VLC for everything else.

Some of the uses I've had for VLC include...

"Reality Check" by Guy Kawasaki

I finished Guy's book "Reality Check" (RC) a little while ago and must say I really enjoyed it. I'm in the middle of starting about 5 major projects and found RC to be a great resource as I work my way through these diverse "starts".

The book is written in easily digestible chunks (the book was admittedly derived from his previous book "The Art of the Start" (TAOTS) and his blog) and the chapters are well organized in related sections.

While there is some repetition and cross reference between Guy's other projects, I found RC to be better organized and a much easier read then TAOTS. It is also more current and, I felt, a little better informed.

Elegance

I do a lot of design work. I'm better at systems internals than I am at UI, but I know what I like in a UI and can usually mimic it (especially within the confines of a predefined UI set of rules such as Windows MDI or Google Android, if you follow what I mean).

Anyway, I'm intrigued by product design, architecture, photography, graphics layout, video editing, etc. and they all require an understanding of design and design principles (or at least the ability to mimic them) so I'm often on the lookout for theoretical works on the subject.

I enjoyed reading Matthew E. May's PDF "In Pursuit of Elegance" for that reason.

This short 6 page work is really just a preview to May's book of the same name. As he says in the last lines of the PDF:

"there is only one matter left to discuss in order to bring the search for elegance to its conclusion, and that is an understanding of a technique by which the power of the missing piece can be applied in such a way that it maintains its power and place in whatever we attempt—an unpacking, if you will, from the travels through elegance.

"And for that, I’m afraid, you will need to purchase the book."

What makes this PDF worth reading (for the price)? It raises interesting issues about the definition of "elegance" and provides some interesting examples. He does trot out some rather worn stories (hasn't everyone heard that Michelangelo said carving the statue of David was "simply a matter of removing the stone that was not David"?) and there are a few typos, but I did find it an interesting read.

The definition he uses, that "Elegance is at once symmetrical, seductive, subtractive, and sustainable" is a good one and is, itself, elegant.

Good enough definition that I might even buy the book, or at least get it from the library. (Hey, if you click on that link and pre-order before May 19, 2009 or buy the book after that, I get some Ama$on.)

First Impressions of the Android Dev 1

Well, I've had my Dev1 unit for a few days and thought I'd share my first impressions of the device and the Google OS. There are a lot of reviews already for the T-Mobile G1, so I'll mainly focus on the differences and my specific experience along with a basic run through of what I've seen so far.

Slicehost, Best VPS Ever!

I switched recently to slicehost.com for my VPS (Virtual Private Server) hosting. VPS allows you to run your own virtual server out in the "cloud". Instead of dealing with all of the headaches associated with shared web hosting accounts and other hosting options, or the cost of a dedicated physical box, the VPS gives you everything you are used to having with a physical server, but running as a "slice" of processor, memory, and disk on a larger, managed, server.

www.Copilot.com is Awesome!

I've been using www.copilot.com for over a year. Copilot is a website with two software download components that allows you to take over a remote computer and help the remote user with whatever issues they might have (at least as long as both of you can get connected to the internet).

I used it a little during the beta program in 2007 (or was it 2006?) 2005 and have used it many times since. Awhile ago, I found out that during weekends the service is FREE!

Here's how it all works...

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