Surface Pro 3 – Nightmare!

Written by rsolberg. Posted in All, Reviews

SurfacePro3Fail

A few years back I had purchased a MacBook Air that eventually was replaced with a more powerful MacBook Pro. The Air ultimately collected dust in a desk drawer and was in amazing shape. Another device of mine that collects lots of dust is the original Surface RT. When I saw Microsoft’s promo a week or so ago for them to essentially allow you to trade in your used MacBook Air for up to $650 towards the purchase of a new Surface Pro 3, I jumped at it.

Chase Mobile App UX #Fail

Written by rsolberg. Posted in All, Business, Oped, Reviews

It seems as though everyone has a favorite banking application these days and today my favorite app failed me. In the year of 2013, consumers simply demand convenience from their mobile applications and consumers view mobile apps as an extension of the business whom provides it. It is for these very reasons that Chase and other financial institutions allow you to deposit checks online through their websites or mobile apps.

Year In Review – 2012

Written by rsolberg. Posted in All, Reviews, Technology

Introduction

Recently I’ve been thinking about accountability quite a bit.  In many facets of each and everyone of our lives, accountability is what sets many of us apart from one another.  It is certainly extremely easy to look at others whom lack accountability and point it out, but tonight as I type I’m looking at myself in a mirror.  Accountability starts with each and everyone of us and I’ve decided that I’m going to try and hold myself more accountable by sharing what my annual goals are. I will then provide a mid-year and a end-of-year review to update everyone on where things ended up.

Since I didn’t start off 2012 with this plan, I didn’t have many formal goals to look back on so I figured I’d start by documenting what 2012 was for me.

Family

This has been a pretty crazy year full of ups and downs in terms of family. I’m still happily married to my bride of 7 years Melissa and we absolutely love our two year old son Owen to pieces. He definitely has my personality (Lord help us all, now!) and he looks exactly like his Uncles on his mom’s side of the family. Owen keeps us grounded and very busy, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.

In May of 2012, my sister Dani passed away after a very courageous fight against Clear Cell Sarcoma (CCS) Cancer. Looking back, I’m very glad that I was able to be there with her and the rest of my family in her final days and moments. Now that I’ve had a little over 7 months to reflect upon my sister’s battle and ultimately her death, I have learned that you have absolutely no idea what life is going to throw your way, but if you get to decide how you’re going to go about dealing with life. Dani never played the “why me” card and taught me that NOW is the most important time. If you spend all of your time thinking and worrying about tomorrow, then you are neglecting NOW.

Given my sister’s battle, Melissa and I were not able to travel as much as we would have liked to have. We started off the year in TX with my family and that was our only big trip together for the year. I was able to spend Super Bowl weekend in Las Vegas with my father-in-law, two brother-in-laws and my brother Rob. I then spent another 7 weeks or so in TX throughout the remainder of the year. I may as well refer to San Antonio, TX as my second home at this point.

Business/Career

I spend most of my time working for my family’s Medicare Insurance Agency VibrantUSA (VUSA). I’m the Chief Information Officer (CIO) for VUSA which basically means I’m responsible for making sure that all of the current and future technology needs are met for the business. But given the size of our organization I end up wearing many hats from operations to marketing to human resources. 2012 was the best year that VUSA has ever had with record setting revenue and net income, but we’ve still got some very important work to do and investments to make to remain competitive.

When I’m not burning the midnight oil as they say for VUSA, I run a technology consulting company called TechDoba (TDOBA). The reality is that I didn’t push for new clients in 2012 for TDOBA as we spent most of our time enhancing our CRM solution that VUSA has used for the past few years. But we still did get a couple of new customers and saw revenue of about $1,000 (clearly not bragging). The good news is that 2013 will start off with a project near completion that will yield about $500.

Technology

While Technology is my profession, it is also my hobby and passion. I absolutely love learning new things and trying to solve new problems. Here is a quick list of some of the areas I spent some time:
  • WordPress
  • Windows Azure
  • ASP.NET MVC4
  • Arduino
  • NetDuino

Where is the professionalism Lenovo?

Written by rsolberg. Posted in All, Reviews, Technology

Late in the evening on Thursday June 21st I was browsing my Facebook “timeline” and came across an interesting post from a friend of mine. Essentially my friend was looking at the Outlet website for Lenovo and while using their compare laptops feature, he discovered a very friendly message from Lenovo. I didn’t believe him at all, I mean this is Lenovo we’re talking about…

SQL Azure & Updated Pricing

Written by rsolberg. Posted in All, Reviews, Technology

One of the biggest challenges I face daily is how to build and architect cost effective technical solutions to improve our business processes. While we have no shortage of ideas for processes we can enhance, we are very constrained on capital to invest. With all that said, we still have to operate and improve our processes. Our goal as a business is to be the best at what we do which means we also need to make sure we have appropriate scalable technical solutions in please to meet the demands of our users. Over the past few years our Customer Relationship Management (CRM) database has become our Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system. This system tells our staff everything they need to know about our customers, potential customers, and what activities need to be completed and when. This system is an ASP.NET web application with a SQL database on the back end. In the days leading up to our busy season, we had an Internet outage (thanks to some meth tweakers for digging up some copper!) and only one of our offices had access to our system. At this time, I knew that our business required us to rethink the hosting of our server and services. After working with various technical partners, we determined we could collocate our existing server in a data center for a mere $400 per month. While this was a workable solution, the only perk this would really provide us was redundant power and internet access which we didn’t have in our primary location. We still had huge redundancy issues with our server in general, and by huge I mean non-existent. In other words, if a hard disk failed, we were SOL until Dell was able to get us a replacement. Since our busy season of work had just begun, I decided that we’d roll the dice and address the concerns in the 1Q of 2012.

Enter Azure

When Azure was announced from Microsoft, I initially brushed off the platform. I found the Azure pricing model way too difficult to comprehend and I really wasn’t willing to spend the hours, weeks, or months trying to put it all together. Things have changed though! On February 14th, 2012 Microsoft announced that it was reducing the pricing of SQL Azure and I decided to see if I could figure out what that meant. While digging into this, I came across a nice article written by Steven Martin that did a good job explaining the costs.  After reading the article, I decided to evaluate the pricing calculator again.  Winner Winner Chicken Dinner! I could move our entire database to the SQL Azure platform for $9.99 per month!  This would at least handle some of the disaster recovery and scalability concerns.  The only other piece to the puzzle would be our ASP.NET web application.  While I have scalability concerns with that, disaster recovery isn’t really a concern because the data drives the app.  In other words, a Windows PC can running IIS would work until the server is fixed.  But what if the cost wasn’t an issue on the Azure platform?  Would it be worth it?  Five months ago, I couldn’t have told you the cost.  With the updated pricing calculator, I can see that running 2 extra-small instances of our ASP.NET web app will cost $60.00 per month.  VERY AFFORDABLE! While I’ve not deployed our solutions to Azure yet, it is something that I’ve got on the list to complete within the next 60 days.  Hosting our entire application for less than $70 per month (ok, a penny less… but still!) is amazing!  I’ll write another blog entry once we’ve tested the Azure system out, but very promising!!!!!

What if your database was 30GB?

HP TouchPad from OnSale

Written by rsolberg. Posted in All, Reviews, Technology

Well if you’re reading this, my guess is that you were potentially impacted by the fire sale of the HP TouchPads after the insane new price of $99 for the 16GB version was established. While most “Geeks” out there probably already had their tablet of choice in hand already or their eyes on one, the $99 price point made the device very sexy. Simply putting it on your desk as a digital picture frame, or calendar display, or eBook reader at this price would simply be amazing. Below I will recap my overall experience trying to grab one of these hot buys. If you’re looking for one, sorry I’m in the same boat as you!
Obviously something that has so much to give at $99 would be in hot demand. HP sold through their inventory very quickly. Most national and global retailers removed their stock to send back to HP. This left just a few folks whom were selling them through other channels like the re-seller platform through Amazon. On Sunday I came across a tweet alerting folks that the $99 HP TouchPad was available on Amazon. I logged onto Amazon as quickly as I could and ordered 3 of them. Again at the $99 price point, these would offer incredible value and make fantastic gifts. I then decided to pony up the extra coin to have the shipment expedited. After receiving the confirmation emails, etc. from OnSale, the re-seller, I got pretty darn excited. Normally ordering something on Amazon and selecting next day delivery goes off without a hitch. On Monday, I full expected to see a shipment notification from OnSale. Monday came and went and so did Tuesday and still not shipment notification. On Wednesday morning I checked my order status and saw “Shipping Soon.” I figured, this must be good news… I then saw some tweets from people suggesting their order had been cancelled from OnSale since the item was on back order. From the way folks were describing the situation, OnSale apparently oversold their inventory by the thousands. I decided to call Amazon just to make sure everything with my order was OK and they said, “YES” and to call OnSale with questions. I tried, dozens of times throughout the day. I’m guessing thousands of others were as well since all I got was “All circuits are busy, please try your call again later”… Clearly there was a big mess going on. Finally near 5PM I was able to get through to OnSale and they told me that they had no record of my order and that Amazon failed to send it to them. After publicly defending them and Amazon for the mess, I decided I was mad. I called Amazon and they again said, “everything looked fine” and that OnSale probably needed more time to catch up. About fifteen minutes later, I received my cancellation notice.
Clearly there was an inventory management issue somewhere in the supply chain for Amazon.com. While I know Amazon.com is not fully responsible for the re-seller channel, especially in terms of inventory, there wasn’t nearly enough communication. People were checking their front door days after ordering only to find cancellation emails. The communication on this was atrocious. If I were running the show at Amazon.com, I’d send out an email to all those customers whom tried to purchase the device with a recap of what happened, why, and what Amazon.com is doing to make sure it doesn’t happen again. While this fiasco won’t change my shopping habits, sometimes accountability will go a very long ways. If I were running the show, I’d also try to get in touch with HP and work something out. Supposedly HP may have some more inventory available within the week and a large retailer like Amazon may have enough clout to cut a deal on getting devices out to those whom ordered.
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