Sunday, May 27, 2007

Talk About Vision

Have you ever heard the story about the people busting up rocks? Ask the first person and they respond, "I'm breaking up rocks." Ask the second person and they respond, "I'm making a living." Ask the third person and they respond, "I'm building a castle." I most recently heard this story at the Smart Start Conference that I attended a couple weeks ago. It was during a session on task management which I attended just to see how the session might compare with the GTD methodology that I am currently implementing. Back to the story, it demonstrates several things and as a manager, it is supposed to help you recognize the kind of person you want to hire.

Ferrari 599Another thing I see in it is whether there is alignment with vision. We frequently hear about how important it is to get all of your systems, plans, and people in alignment with the vision of an organization. Now to yesterday afternoon when I was watching a show on the National Geographic Channel called Ultimate Factories. In this particular episode, they were visiting the Ferrari factory in Italy to see how they build their new model, the 599. Near the beginning of the episode, they were showing how they make the molds for the engine blocks and then melt the special metal (an aluminum alloy) to prepare it for pouring into the mold. They interviewed one of the foundry workers who is responsible for this and he stated (to paraphrase) - it is very important to get it exactly right. The slightest flaw might mean it cannot support a car that goes over 200 mph.

Talk about great alignment and understanding with the vision of Ferrari. This foundry work is a real life example of the hypothetical rock buster. Even though he has what might seem like a somewhat menial job, he understands that he is not just melting metal or making a living - he is helping to bring to life a spectacular vehicle that relies on him doing his job right.

After watching the rest of the show, I can perhaps understand why. According to the show, the Ferrari factory is considered one of the best places to work at in Europe. One of the facilities has trees growing inside and a glass roof to let in natural light for the works. Another scene showed the seamstresses who had been working on the interior parts delivering them in a scene reminiscent of a mini-parade. Think of the teams arriving at a check in The Amazing Race. It is obvious that Ferrari understands that they need to provide the right tools, resources and environment for their employees to succeed. And with the success of their employees, their product and company succeeds as well.

Talk About Vision

Have you ever heard the story about the people busting up rocks? Ask the first person and they respond, "I'm breaking up rocks." Ask the second person and they respond, "I'm making a living." Ask the third person and they respond, "I'm building a castle." I most recently heard this story at the Smart Start Conference that I attended a couple weeks ago. It was during a session on task management which I attended just to see how the session might compare with the GTD methodology that I am currently implementing. Back to the story, it demonstrates several things and as a manager, it is supposed to help you recognize the kind of person you want to hire.

Ferrari 599Another thing I see in it is whether there is alignment with vision. We frequently hear about how important it is to get all of your systems, plans, and people in alignment with the vision of an organization. Now to yesterday afternoon when I was watching a show on the National Geographic Channel called Ultimate Factories. In this particular episode, they were visiting the Ferrari factory in Italy to see how they build their new model, the 599. Near the beginning of the episode, they were showing how they make the molds for the engine blocks and then melt the special metal (an aluminum alloy) to prepare it for pouring into the mold. They interviewed one of the foundry workers who is responsible for this and he stated (to paraphrase) - it is very important to get it exactly right. The slightest flaw might mean it cannot support a car that goes over 200 mph.

Talk about great alignment and understanding with the vision of Ferrari. This foundry work is a real life example of the hypothetical rock buster. Even though he has what might seem like a somewhat menial job, he understands that he is not just melting metal or making a living - he is helping to bring to life a spectacular vehicle that relies on him doing his job right.

After watching the rest of the show, I can perhaps understand why. According to the show, the Ferrari factory is considered one of the best places to work at in Europe. One of the facilities has trees growing inside and a glass roof to let in natural light for the works. Another scene showed the seamstresses who had been working on the interior parts delivering them in a scene reminiscent of a mini-parade. Think of the teams arriving at a check in The Amazing Race. It is obvious that Ferrari understands that they need to provide the right tools, resources and environment for their employees to succeed. And with the success of their employees, their product and company succeeds as well.

Ferrari 599

A Ferrari 599

Friday, May 18, 2007

A Pinnacle PCTV Update

As you know from my last post, I have been working on getting a Pinnacle PCTV HD Pro USB stick working. Preferably with my Windows laptop, though it would not be bad to get it working with my Linux desktop as well.

Since I last posted, there has been some progress and success made. The first thing I was able to definitely nail down was that I did not have a "hot" cable outlet in the office. So, I had to purchase a splitter and a short piece of cable to split the line I had coming in to service the cable modem. It is now serving TV as well. That immediately solved the problem with the Linux desktop as I was able to get a good, clean signal and KDETV became operational. The only challenge that remains is getting the sound working. I think the problem is Linux does not know how to take the sound from the USB device and make it available to the system. However, I have not figured out how to get around that.

Pinnacle PCTV HD Pro Stick

Time for new hardware and you know what that means? Yep, that's right - time to rant. The hardware in this case is a Pinnacle PCTV HD Pro Stick. My hope was to be able to get it working with my Windows laptop so that I could have some background noise while I'm working in my office. I would especially like to be able to tune in CNBC during the day and maybe some sports at night when I'm working.

Anyway, I picked up the unit yesterday and today (Saturday) I decided to try to install it starting at about 11:00 a.m. As you have surely detected by now, things did not go so well. First up was to plug it into the USB port on the laptop. Windows immediately detected the stick and started up the hardware wizard. However, the manual that came in the package clearly says in step 2:
If the Windows hardware wizard appears, cancel out of this screen and continue to the next step.

Did that and hooked up the provided antenna. Next up was the software install from the provided CD. This seemed to go ok, albeit it was quite slow and required a reboot to complete. The install process then launches a wizard to configure the MediaCenter software. The first step of that is for the software to check for updates. Interestingly enough, it gives you the option of specifying how often to check for updates. This seems to be a rather useless option though as it tries to check every time. Anyway, the first time it recognized that it needed an update from 4.5.* to 4.5.53 (or something like that). Took a good 10 minutes to download and then the install process for the upgrade seemed longer than the original install. I think maybe it uninstalled the original program and reinstalled.

A Pinnacle PCTV Update

As you know from my last post, I have been working on getting a Pinnacle PCTV HD Pro USB stick working. Preferably with my Windows laptop, though it would not be bad to get it working with my Linux desktop as well.

Since I last posted, there has been some progress and success made. The first thing I was able to definitely nail down was that I did not have a "hot" cable outlet in the office. So, I had to purchase a splitter and a short piece of cable to split the line I had coming in to service the cable modem. It is now serving TV as well. That immediately solved the problem with the Linux desktop as I was able to get a good, clean signal and KDETV became operational. The only challenge that remains is getting the sound working. I think the problem is Linux does not know how to take the sound from the USB device and make it available to the system. However, I have not figured out how to get around that.

Pinnacle TVCenter snapshot

A snapshot from the Pinnacle TVCenter software - finally working on my laptop with Windows.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Pinnacle PCTV HD Pro Stick

Time for new hardware and you know what that means? Yep, that's right - time to rant. The hardware in this case is a Pinnacle PCTV HD Pro Stick. My hope was to be able to get it working with my Windows laptop so that I could have some background noise while I'm working in my office. I would especially like to be able to tune in CNBC during the day and maybe some sports at night when I'm working.

Anyway, I picked up the unit yesterday and today (Saturday) I decided to try to install it starting at about 11:00 a.m. As you have surely detected by now, things did not go so well. First up was to plug it into the USB port on the laptop. Windows immediately detected the stick and started up the hardware wizard. However, the manual that came in the package clearly says in step 2:
If the Windows hardware wizard appears, cancel out of this screen and continue to the next step.

Did that and hooked up the provided antenna. Next up was the software install from the provided CD. This seemed to go ok, albeit it was quite slow and required a reboot to complete. The install process then launches a wizard to configure the MediaCenter software. The first step of that is for the software to check for updates. Interestingly enough, it gives you the option of specifying how often to check for updates. This seems to be a rather useless option though as it tries to check every time. Anyway, the first time it recognized that it needed an update from 4.5.* to 4.5.53 (or something like that). Took a good 10 minutes to download and then the install process for the upgrade seemed longer than the original install. I think maybe it uninstalled the original program and reinstalled.

No TV Tuner

Friday, May 04, 2007

A GTD Update (Check This Done!)

As I mentioned a few posts back, I have been looking for some ways to improve how I keep track of all my tasks to do. One of the “tools” I ran across is GTD, short for “Getting Things Done”. That is the title of a book by David Allen on his methodology for, well, getting things done. The sub-title of the book is The Art of Stress-Free Productivity and I can certainly understand that as Allen spends some time explaining his theory on how the brain functions and how the typical methods folks have for keeping track of their tasks introduce even more stress into our lives. So one of the goals of his method is to reduce stress. I've only been using the system for a couple weeks now, but I would definitely say it achieves that goal. At this point I would highly recommend the GTD system. Since I'm doing that, I figured I would share a few thoughts and provide an update from a newbies perspective on how it is going with the implementation.

My first impression is that it is a somewhat complicated system. But that complication comes with a benefit – it actually seems to work. That is the same impression someone else I am helping tackle the same issue has gotten from my brief descriptions. As I work through it though, it is getting quite easy. I think part of the reason is because it all makes sense and there is a nice logic to everything. Being a process type of person, I find it very attractive to observe how it all works.