A Sad Day…

I spent much of the week hearing people discuss how tragic it was that Paul Walker died.  I am not going to rehash the argument, knowing that I would be opening a can of worms.  Believe me, I am about to open a larger one.

I arrived at the office in Sydney, Australia this morning and as I often do when my students are running late I opened Twitter.  Immediately I was hit by messages that Nelson Mandela passed away.

nelson-mandelaNelson Mandela is, by any measure, a worldwide hero.  He spent a lifetime fighting for what was right.  He spent twenty-seven years incarcerated as a political prisoner by the South African government for opposing Apartheid.  He was released from prison in 1990, and four years later was elected, as the president of the African National Congress, became the first black African President of a country in turmoil.  More than anyone he was instrumental in that country’s survival and evolution.

Over the past year every news outlet you turned to could have had on any given day a top of page story about Mr. Mandela being hospitalized.  I could not believe that this was considered news, but not because I don’t care about Mr. Mandela.  With respect, the man was ninety-four years old when these stories started appearing, and anyone with an elderly grandparent will tell you that they likely spend some time in hospital.  It was, to my mind, not news.

The death of Mr. Mandela is not a tragedy.  Is it sad? Yes, extremely.  However it is not a tragedy.  The man was ninety-five years old, and died of natural causes.  That is simply not a tragedy.  It is sad.

What is a tragedy is that this very special man spent twenty-seven years in prison.  However if history had been different he likely would not have been able to help end Apartheid.

stevebikoThe life of Nelson Mandela is actually a miracle.  He endured terrible treatment for years, but survived and changed the world.  The tragedy is in names like Steven Biko and countless others – contemporaries of Mr. Mandela who were imprisoned and died in jail.  Men (and women) who could have helped South Africa to become a better country – a free nation where all people are equal.

As the world mourns the loss of Mr. Mandela I hope that you will save a moment to think of of Steven Biko, and all of the heroes who died years and decades before the realization of their dream of a free South Africa.  Nelson Mandela did not do it alone – he had a lot of help, he just happens to be the most prominent name and face of the revolution.  I respect everything that he did, but I cannot consider his death a tragedy – not of natural causes at the age of ninety-five.

Rest in peace Mr. Mandela…and Mr. Biko, and all of your generation who were part of your struggle, whose names never became household names.

Big in Japan: The Week That Was…

For those of you who follow not only my blog but my Twitter as well (@MGarvis) you will likely know that I have been walking a lot since I got to Japan, and my FitBit (www.fitbit.com) has all the proof you need.  You may also have noticed that Tuesday and Wednesday this week my daily steps dropped from an average of 15,000 steps per day to about 2000 steps for those two days.  That is because I caught a bad chest cold and spent two days in bed – which is to say I was working from my hotel room, but once my actual work was done I did not have much energy for blogging.  Sorry fans… but I’m back!

I have now been in Japan just over three weeks, and have on several occasions mentioned how clean I have been finding it.  Listening in on a conversation yesterday between two people with more experience here than I do I think some of the reasons became clear.  One of them described Tokyo as ‘shared space’ – a country that is two small and too populated to allow for much privacy, and so when you are out and about the honourable thing to do is to show everybody the respect of their shared space by keeping it clean.  That is why almost nobody litters, spits, or any other impolite behaviour that we might consider commonplace in the west (and most other parts of Asia)… out of respect for each other.

In ancient Japan – really not that long ago – most walls were made of rice paper.  As such there was no real privacy – it was easy enough for your neighbour to know your business.  I have heard it told that because of that it is commonplace in Japanese culture to always maintain a completely polite exterior, even when your feelings are very impolite.  Maybe that is one of the reasons that there are few PDAs (Public Displays of Affection) in Japan.  It is also likely one of the reasons why everybody at my office seems to like me – whether they do or they do not, it is customary to show outwardly that you do.

DSCN4019 Last Monday I was walking around an area called Osaki when I noticed these tiles in the ground.  It was interesting to see just how far I am from home – if we are 10,350 kilometers from Ottawa, we are not that much closer to Oakville – say, 9,950km to be conservative.  There is no question that I miss it (especially the people), but at the same time I am really enjoying life here.  It would be nice if I was not stuck living in a shoebox hotel (please don’t misunderstand, it is a really nice and clean hotel, but the rooms are extremely small) but other than that, life here is good.  I am seeing a lot of cultural differences both at work and out and about, but that is not a bad thing.  I have never been one to poo-poo cultural diversity.

DSCN4049 My friend and Master Dimitrios Beis spends a lot of time at different industry shows and fairs in and around Toronto – wedding shows, food and drink shows, and the like.  It is part of his business, and he has on several occasions invited Theresa and I to join him there.  When I stumbled upon a similar type of fair in Osaki on Monday I thought of him as I walked around, sampled some of the foods (I had aDSCN4065 wonderful fried chicken dish for lunch, followed by a couple of sesame balls for dessert… scrumptious!) and took some pictures of the people and booths.

There were several ‘cartoon characters’ in costume walking around, and the kids were flocking to meet them.  There was also a booth sponsored by the Tokyo Fire Department, where kids were invited to try on their gear (sized down of course) complete with the helmets.  The kids were having a ball, and the parents were taking pictures of them with their ear-to-ear smiles.

DSCN4044 Just as they would in Canada, some people brought their dogs along.  This was, after all, and outdoor fair, and as long as the dogs are well behaved they are a welcome addition to any setting as far as I am concerned.  This gorgeous girl was very happily sitting in a pram, and seemed content to smile at people who wanted to pay any attention to her, as I certainly did.  Her owner was working one of the booths, but she obviously knew that puppy was well behaved enough to not try to escape.

DSCN4056 When I say there were all sorts of booths, I am serious – there were crafts (both pre-made, and ones for the kids to participate in) ranging from Japanese pottery to drawing to flower arrangements). There were dancers, there were plants – this tree pictured is actually less than a foot tall, and an amazing sight to see.  It struck me as very… Japanese.  I could imagine Mr. Miyagi having trees like this if he had fruit trees.

All in all everyone seemed to be having a good time, which I suppose is the entire point both of a fair and of a holiday Monday.  The kids were laughing, smiling, dancing, playing, and eating.  The parents did not need to chase after them – the perception I have is that they are much safer in general in Japan than they might be in Canada, with no threat of kidnapping.  The vendors were sharing their wares – as soon as they realized I spoke no Japanese the majority of them knew there was no sale to be made, and yet they convinced me to try different teas, finger foods, and breads.  I did buy my lunch of fried chicken and sesame balls (the two dishes, from two separate vendors, cost a staggering 600 yen, or about $6).

DSCN4058

This was only one bit of my walking for the last week, but it was a very memorable part.  I have seen so many wonderful places and people that it would be impossible to tell you about all of them… but trust me, if you have never been to Japan you should definitely get down here!

About.Me

Hey Readers!  I was wondering how many of you use the About.Me site for profiles?  Do you have your own?  Do you look at others’? I have had a profile for a while, but decided yesterday (I don’t know why) to actually populate it.  I’d like your opinions, as well as suggestions of what I could add/change to make it better.  I also want to know if it matters, so please tell me!

Thanks in advance… you can view my profile HERE.

The 1%…

Image representing LinkedIn as depicted in Cru...

Image via CrunchBase

Last year when people were occupying anything they could pitch a tent near we started hearing a lot about the 1%… the ones who control all of the wealth, the ones everyone else was supposed to be supported by.  I did some quick calculations after checking my banks account and credit card statements and realized I was safe: I may be comfortable, but by no means am I wealthy; in fact beyond this blog I would be hard pressed to name anything that I control when I am not behind the wheel of my car (including my wife, kids, and dogs).  I was doomed to live my life as part of the 99%, albeit the part of that fraction that supports himself and doesn’t want a hand-out from anyone.

So this morning – it was this morning as I type, which means it will likely be yesterday when this article is published and possibly even last week by the time you read it – I was thrilled to receive an e-mail from LinkedIn congratulating me that my profile was among the top 1% viewed in 2012.

For a few minutes I was thrilled!  How exciting to be among the top one percent! And then the math kicked in…

1. One percent of two hundred million is still two million.  Okay, so my profile is among the top two million.  If I was one of the two million best basketball players in the world I still wouldn’t make the NBA.  In fact, if I was in the top one percent best basketball players I still wouldn’t make the cut.

2. Before my e-mail came in I saw tweets and Facebook posts from at least thirty friends saying they had received the same e-mail.  Now I know I have some great friends, but that is a bit of a coincidence, isn’t it?

3. Three hundred or thirty thousand people can view my profile and then move on… that number is irrelevant to me.  As my old friend Sigmund Marcus used to say, Show me da money! (Sorry Tom and Cuba, Sigmund said it before I saw your movie)  My profile can get a single view by a headhunter who has a great opportunity for me, or  y a potential client who has a great consulting mandate, and that number means something.  The number of people who simply looked at it means… nothing.  Oh sure, the more people who see my profile the higher the chances that I will speak to a hiring manager or CIO with a consulting mandate, but I learned a long time ago that volume does not equal quality.

I saw another interesting statistic today, quoted by a spokesperson for LinkedIn who is also a career coach.  She was quoted saying that when building your profile you should aim for 50 contacts, and to remember that LinkedIn is not Facebook… your contacts on LinkedIn should be people that you can pick up the phone and call for a professional (career-related) favour… and not just people you know.  The last time I checked I had over eleven hundred contacts… and I admit that I do not remember who many of them are.  Many are likely people who attended a class or a seminar that I gave, others are contacts of my contacts.  Either way, I do not consider my contact list impressive… I feel I should spend some time trying to cull it when I have a moment free.

I suppose a thousand contacts is a good way to get into the top 1% but in the end it doesn’t mean anything.  Maintaining a LinkedIn profile that is professional and impressive means that when someone looking for someone with your talents does see it they will like what they see… but the sheer numbers are meaningless.  Like anything else you should focus on quality, not quantity.  If you do that, then you are in the top 1% in my books already! Congratulations.

527,040 Minutes: The Year that was 2012

Over the last few days I have wondered why this year felt so much longer than normal and then I realized… it actually was longer!  2012 was a leap year, and that extra day seems to have made a real difference.

It is hard for us as a species to appreciate just how substantial a single year is; yet when I am asked about where I was a year ago today I have trouble remembering.  People, events, tasks all flew by… they meant so much to me in the moment, but a year later it is hard to remember most of them.

The Garvis Family – my branch of it anyways – has had a great year.

Aaron raised all of that money to go on a Mission Trip to the Dominican Republic with his school.  Then in the spring he was confirmed, and we were all so proud of him – all of the work that he put into preparing for that special day really paid off.  He played Potiphar (and Jacob!) in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and he graduated from Middle School.  He spent his fifth summer at Centauri Arts Camp, and he started high school at King’s (where he is doing tremendously well).  I look at him now and am shocked that he has grown into a young man… I remember the boy that I met nearly six years ago, and cannot believe that he is my son, and that he is shaving, dating, and looking forward to driving… hopefully not for another 18 months though!

Gilad has grown like a weed… as we approach his third birthday on January 3rd it is amazing for me that 2012 was a full 1/3rd of his life.  He has mastered walking and has started talking; he has outgrown high chairs and booster seats, and the only place where that hard-headed boy will stand for a ‘child seat’ is in the car, where it is of course not optional.  At the table he wants to be just like us though.  He still loves his bottle and noodles, but has grown to accept that there are other foods out there that he can eat.  Just this morning he saw me eating a piece of toast with peanut butter and decided to help!  In October he started attending pre-school at Hamilton Hebrew Academy, and he is absolutely loving it… thriving in an environment where he is not always in charge.

Theresa has enjoyed being a mother this year, but has also done a tremendous amount to help me with my business.  She has taken on the role of accounting (thank G-d!), and has kept track of all of the expenses, contracts, and projects for SWMI Consulting Group.   She is largely responsible for my being able to do what it is that I do – and that is before we acknowledge that she lets me do it, with all of the travel.  She planned several getaways for us this year – some with the family, some just the two of us.  She also quarterbacked countless meals, family visits, parties and such at our home, which she is also completely responsible for.  I couldn’t do it without her!

It has been an incredible year of ups and downs for me… and that is not just with regard to my weight (I have lost and then put back on 45lbs in 2012.  A struggle I keep losing).  However most of 2012 will be chalked up in the positive column.  I achieved several goals this year – I earned my Second Degree Black Belt in June, followed by earning my MCSE: Private Cloud certification that same month.  I turned 40 in July, and while I was not sad to be getting older, I did spend a bit of time in the dumps thinking of friends I had lost.  I also earned my VMware Certified Professional (VCP) 5, which was important for me, even though I do a lot less work on VMware than I used to.

My blog, which had been growing slowly since I re-launched it in November of 2010, grew exponentially this year.  Although the number will drop for December, the hits have grown substantially every month this year (except February).  I have excitedly kept track on Twitter, excitedly tweeting each milestone.  When in early June my hit-count equalled for all of 2011 I was excited by the prospects of doubling that total for 2012; little did I know that I would more than triple the number, in the process hitting the daunting milestone of 100,000 hits for the year (achieved, sadly, the same day as my car accident – December 27th).

Earlier in the year I was recognized by my peers as one of the top 150 influencers in the SMB space – an honour considering the company I am in on that list.  As the year comes to a close the voting continues for the SMB150 list for 2013, and I am thrilled to be in strong contention for a repeat award.  Speaking of repeat awards, my blog was listed on BizTech Magazine’s list of the 50 IT Blogs You Must Read for the second year in a row.  I was thrilled and honoured, but if you know me speechless is rare Winking smile.  I was re-awarded as an MVP for the seventh time, and am glad I continue to be recognized for my community contributions.

Although work did not take me abroad as it has in previous years, that did not prevent me from racking up over 50,000 miles… including eight trips to Montreal, five trips to Calgary, Four trips to Vancouver, Three trips to Ottawa and Seattle, and a plethora of other cities.  I presented in eight Canadian provinces in 2012, and am glad that all tolled my days away was down this year… to a whopping 185.

There are so many milestones and accolades and laughs and tears that I am forgetting I am sure… Theresa and I took a cruise last January and will take another one next week, but this time we are going with friends that we met on the ship last year which is nice.  We went to New Orleans for a week-end and Miami for a week-end – something I hope we get to do more of next year (week-end getaways, whether attached to conferences or not).  We took a family road trip to Minnesota for our niece’s wedding, with a stopover in Chicago, and a new minivan with a rear entertainment system to appease the children during the long drives.  We celebrated milestones, and we suffered losses.  We made new friends, said goodbye to some who did not deserve the title.  We aspired, we achieved, we succeeded and sometimes we failed.  But we did it as a family,and that makes it all special.

If we are to judge how good or bad a year is, I would rate 2012 as a pretty good one.  We are all healthy (despite bouts of the flu, colds, and car accidents).  We are all happy (despite school, crying, and more).  We are all positive (despite the occasional bout of depression or anxiety), and we are all a family (despite the occasional fight or tantrum or punishment).

Over the years I have occasionally mentioned my 14 favourite legs… they started as 16, grew to 18, then sadly fell to 14 (where we have now been for two years).  Theresa has two legs, Aaron two, Gilad two (that’s six); Jacob ‘Puppy’ has four, as does Gingit ‘Licious’.  Tonight I get to hug them all and will wish them all a Happy New Year… as I wish for you and your family.

May 2013 bring you and your loved ones all that you need, enough of what you desire, and some of what you don’t expect to keep it interesting.  May it be a year of health, happiness, love, prosperity, and peace… for all of us.

Still on XP? There should be a reason…

For the past year or so I have been counting down (on Twitter) the days left until the #EndOfDaysXP… as of the date of this article it stands at 591 days.  Some of my followers think it is silly, others thank me for it.  Some want to know why it matters, and there are a few who not only understand why it matters, but have taken up the cause… to a degree.

John Marshall is a Microsoft MVP in Microsoft Office Visio, and is (usually) on the side of right – meaning that he thinks that companies should upgrade already.  He chides me about it of course… I am reasonably sure that following an accident as a child a doctor sutured his tongue into his cheek.  However when it comes down to brass tax, he knows that XP is the past, and it’s time to bury it… mostly.

Recently he sent me this e-mail about his position… why he still does have Windows XP running on one machine, and what companies who claim fiscal hardship (especially charities) can do to get off the old and onto… if not the new, then at least up to Windows 7.

During the Vista days, I was one of the MVPs who pushed for (and got) a five year extension to the XP end of life. At the time, the problem was that we were trying to protect those first time computer users on the trailing edge. They were first time users who could not afford new machines. The ones they had were donated. Parents, kids and charitable organizations. Now, the quality of donated computers is far superior and there is no longer as much a need. XP still has more than a year to go and even then, it does not mean that the machines will automatically stop, they just will not get the support.

I still have one machine running XP and it runs only one program that prints labels. The label printer I have uses the parallel port and the software has not been updated since the XP days. A few years back, my favourite store for PC support went into receivership. The store was very profitable, but they were a part of a group and the receivers refused to split the group. So I picked up a lifetime supply of labels when the company was dissolved and lost great support.

So if I do find anyone running XP I fervently recommend they upgrade. Most are unaware that there newer versions of Windows. To them, it is a computer and it works. For charitable organizations I recommend that they investigate one of the local companies who can donate used machines that are far better.

So it will come as good news to the people that are running Windows XP that if they want to upgrade to Windows 8 when it comes out they will be able to… for $40.  Yes, that is ten x four… FORTY dollars.  Of course, if you have the means to invest in a new system I strongly recommend taking a look at some of the cool toys that are going to be released with Windows 8… but the newest Microsoft client OS works great on older hardware as well.  You can download it today to evaluate for 90 days.  See for yourself how fast it really is!

Office 2013 Social Connectors

I was really excited when Microsoft released its Social Connectors for Microsoft Office Outlook 2010 (Outlook Social Connectors Make it Easier to Keep Track).  In Office 2013 they have, in my opinion, made them even better.

For reasons that defy logic my main contact list (the one I have been maintaining since 1996) has 2,882 contacts in it… many of whom, I am sure, could be deleted without causing any issue or notice.  Some of those contacts, however, are people that I will one day need to speak to again… even though by looking at their e-mail address (or even name) I have no idea who they are right now.

I get a lot of e-mail from a lot of people.  Not that infrequently I get an e-mail from someone who I should know… but don’t.  If an e-mail looks important, but I don’t know who it is from, I will do a bit of research.  Before I delete the e-mail (I never delete it, I just mark it as read which means it is gone forever unless I actively go searching) I go to LinkedIn and see if the person sending the e-mail is a contact of mine.  Next I go to Facebook and see if they are a ‘friend’.  You would be surprised how much you can tell about a person you are not sure you have ever met just from these two sources.

Of course, with 1,000 ‘friends’ on Facebook and 1,200 contact on LinkedIn, that may or may not help… but it is a start.

Now here’s the thing… there is a lot of crossover between my two networks.  I find it hard enough to believe that I know 1,200 people, but 2,200 people would be really hard to believe.  So let’s assume that the people that I deal with are more accurate with their LinkedIn profile than with their Facebook (Or might have a picture of a butterfly on Facebook and a professional headshot on LinkedIn.  So new in Outlook 2013 is the ability to prioritize your networks… ‘Show this network information when available, instead of information from other networks’.  If nothing else it limits the number of people whose pictures in my Outlook are of butterflies.

I still love the fact that when I have a meeting or conference call planned I can see in advance who I am meeting with.  In this case I know Damir, but I sat in on a call on Wednesday with 125 other people, and it was nice to be able to see the faces that went along with the names.  This goes equally well when someone sends me an e-mail… I have the option of seeing who I am communicating with, if I so choose.  Of course you can minimize this or even turn it off if you want – it is all up to you.

 

Outlook Social Connectors have been making my life a bit easier for three years, and they will continue to do so into the future.  I am glad that Microsoft is still innovating and finding new ways to stay fresh.  I would have liked to have seen a Twitter connector included in 2013, but that would have only been for updates, and so many people are cross-posting their tweets to Facebook so it doesn’t really matter.

Free software? Contest with Giveaways? Wow, this is good stuff!

Hey folks! So many of you have heard me talk about the importance of backing up your software (See Oakville.Com Tech Tuesday) but if you have kids it is also a good idea to back up other media – especially things like DVDs that you have invested money in.  Digiarty Software, Inc. has a couple of great tools for that, and for the next few days they are giving them away!

During their Easter Software Giveaway” they are providing two pieces of software for free, in stages.

Stage 1: WinX HD Video Converter Deluxe

From now until April 10, Digiarty will be giving away their WinX HD Video Converter Deluxe.  This is a great package that allows you to convert video between file formats.  However you have to hurry – the offer ends Tuesday!  To download the software for free, click here.

Stage 2: WinX DVD Copy Pro

For five days only – April 11 through April 15 (that’s next Sunday!) they will be giving away their WinX DVD Copy Pro software.  I know that as a parent I have already had to buy a lot of my kids’ DVDs a few times, because they scratch, break, get fed to dogs.  WinX DVD Copy Pro allows me to buy the DVD and copy it before giving it to the kids.  If the copy gets destroyed, all I have to do is make another copy, and not go out and pay full price again.  For those of you who are wondering, this is completely legal… as long as I do not give the copies to anyone else.  To download the software for free (starting Wednesday), click here.

Contest: WinX DVD Ripper Platinum

To celebrate all sorts of things – the coming of Spring, my 1000th follower on Twitter, and what should be this Monday or Tuesday the 45,000th visitor to the new World According to Mitch Digitary has given me five copies** of the software you will want most from their catalogue to give away.  So for the next ten business days, I will give away a copy of WinX DVD Ripper Platinum to one lucky reader, with the following caveats:

  1. I will only give away a copy on days where the site has over 150 visitors (Of the last 21 weekdays, 18 have exceeded 150 hits, and Good Friday probably shouldn’t count as a weekday).
  2. I will give the software away at random to a visitor who comments on my blog – any comment will do, as long as WordPress and I do not consider it spam.  That means you can comment on certifications, virtualization, Windows 8, or you can comment here and say ‘I want to win the prize!’
  3. I have to have your e-mail address.  That will not be published, but if I cannot contact you I cannot award you the prize!

I use WinX DVD Ripper Platinum all the time – we buy DVDs, and I rip them into our Windows Home Server Media Center so that the kids can watch them from the XBox any time they want without accidentally feeding DVDs to the dogs.  I also use it for myself – I can now watch movies on airplanes on my HP EliteBook 2740p tablet without bringing the docking station (the PC itself doesn’t have a DVD player).  I can rip my movies into any format, which means I can watch them in full size on my laptop, or really small on my Zune or Windows Phone 7.5.  If you don’t already have this software you will want it!  And all you have to do is… click Comment once Smile

Good luck, and happy Spring/Easter/Passover/45000th hit/1000th visitor!

——

**Software giveaways will not be hard copies, but will be fully licensed software codes already in the possession of the writer.  These copies are given away freely with the permission and endorsement of the software vendor.  They are distributed by The World According to Mitch, and not by any company or corporate entity that the writer may work for or contract for.  Odds of winning are directly related to the number of valid entries received.  The winners will be chosen at random according to the terms stated in the contest, however the selection process will be at the discretion of the writer, and his decisions are final and not subject to any audit process.  There are five licenses of the software to be given away beginning on Monday April 9th, 2012.

Why one should be careful with words…

In my class this morning I was espousing the virtues of PowerShell. I sad that it could do ANYTHING, and that I was pretty sure that if I asked him to, my friend Sean Kearney could write me a PowerShell script that would tie my shoes for me. Later in the day I glanced at my Twitter Feed and saw the following:

@Adam_McDougall: @energizedtech Hey! @MGarvis just told us he is reasonably sure you can write a #powershell script that could tie my shoes…

@Energizedtech: @adam_mcdougall @mgarvis GET-SHOE | INVOKE-TIE

Wow… now I just have to remember to import the proper cmdlets 🙂