Review

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Any book on leadership that makes it 25 years and 5 editions is amazing. Twenty-five years with the same base knowledge being pertinent to today. The Leadership Challenge has lasted twenty-five years because of how practical it is, how it makes its points, and how applicable it is.

How do we make people do something we want them to do? The short answer is that we can’t. No matter how much better someone’s life would be if they would just change this one little issue in their lives, we can’t make them change it. They have to make the change themselves. The most practical way to accomplish this is found in this book. The first step is to “Model the Way”. That makes sense. If we tell someone to manage their finances well and then go buy a 104″ TV on a credit card, our credibility is shot.

This book has five steps that leaders go through to foster change. Every one of them just makes sense. Is it practical to have a clear vision? Certainly! My favourite part of this book is that it just makes sense. It is as practical as shutting the refrigerator to keep it cool inside.

Points are made through stories. What better way to prove out a point then to have someone tell a story of how it worked? It’s almost like a before and after commercial without the before part. We read only about what the individual did to succeed in what they considered their best leadership experience. They are stating what worked for them in their own words.

Because stories are used, the book is incredibly readable. It’s almost 400 pages, but we get to meet hundreds of people and hear their stories of success. The stories are inspirational. I didn’t want the book to end when reading it; I wanted more of these great stories by people like you and I.

Twenty-five years of relevancy is something this book has deserved. The main five points that this book revolves around have been echoed (to some extent) in every leadership book I have read. This is a great book to get started in leadership for that reason. Get the points in this book and then see how they show up everywhere else.

There is one thing to be aware of. This books is part of a series of materials. You will be reminded over and over again that there is a mobile app to purchase. A single page reminding of this would’ve been better then on the cover and at the end of every chapter.

This review is glowing and I think that is deservedly so. Simply put, if you have any interest in being a leader, buy this book, read, and apply. It is excellent.

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Colin Powell is an amazing  success story.  He happens to be a very good story teller as well. In this post I am reviewing his book, It Worked for Me.

It is surprising to me how many people give the book bad reviews simply because they are judging him based on his speech at the UN.  To avoid political quagmires, this review is going to take him at his word.

It Worked for Me is broken into six parts.  They cover various and broad topics. The subtitle, In Life and Leadership, is a good summary of what to expect.  The book feels like an autobiography at times and a leadership manual at other times.

The book begins with the 13 principles of life (aka 13 Rules of Leadership).  They are insightful and one of the better lists to lead by that I have seen.   I’m not going to repost them all, but comment on the two that I was touched by:

Rule 2: Get Mad Then Get Over It!

It’s ok to get mad 🙂 .  This was interesting to read because it goes contrary to what I had heard before.  Showing emotions such as anger has been used against politicians as a sign of being out of control.  My reaction to this is that it is ok to feel the way that I feel even if it is one of those “rash” emotions.  Please comment if you have thought about how this applies to your own life.

Rule 13: Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier!

One of the reasons that leadership is so fun for me is that I am naturally optimistic.  Both positivity and negativity are contagious.  People (including myself) work better in a positive environment.  The leader needs to be the one to set the tone in this regard.

The book then goes into some leadership lessons that Colin has learned during his life along with the stories that go along with the lesson.

There are lots of leadership nuggets that are sprinkled into this section of the book.  “One team one fight” is one that will stay with me for a long time.  It has always been true that a house divided against itself cannot stand.  One team one fight is a way to simplify this message and drive it home.

Colin impresses me with the way he continually mentions how everyone performs a crucial job.  This shows a deep appreciation of those around him.  He commends those who do vital jobs such as taking out trash and sweeping floors.  In this regard, he sets a great example that we all should follow.

The later parts of the book are personal stories.  He writes about the lead up to the speech to the UN about weapons of mass destruction.  He writes about gifts he has given and received from foreign politicians and diplomats.  These stories really have the “just a normal guy” feeling to them.  He seems genuinely genuine and quite funny at times as well.  His story telling abilities are excellent.

It Worked for Me is an inspirational and uplifting book.  It is apparent that it was written by an optimist who believes in the greatness of the people of America.

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Update 6/4/2013

A lot of people have had issues with this keyboard.  Mine is typing duplicate letters randomly.  I can not longer recommend that anyone purchases this keyboard.  The form factor is great. The execution, not so great.

Original Review

Keyboards have been boring.  Did you know that there are mice out there that you can put weights in so it weighs the exact amount you want it to weigh? I have such a mouse.  It frequently turns to my keyboard and has a good chuckle.  Thanks to the AZiO Levetron Mech4, that chuckle has been silenced.

The number pad is one of the least used things on everyone’s desktop.  Why does it exist?  Why is it not optional?  Why does everyone have to tilt slightly to the left all day so they can type?  Typically, the mouse is on the right side of the keyboard.  All the more reason to get rid of 4 inches of unused number pad. The mech4 makes the number pad optional.  What a great idea! It seems so profound when you buy a keyboard that actually has had this done.  This was the #1 thing that I was looking for in a keyboard.

The #2 thing I was looking for was anti-masking.  Most people would not care about anti-masking enough to even know what it is.  Let me explain it simply.  Hold down the ‘J’, ‘K’, ‘L’, and ‘;’ keys with your right hand, then hit any other key with your left hand.  Did the key you hit with your left hand actually type?  If not, you are experiencing masking.  This doesn’t usually matter.  Who hits 5 keys at the same time anyway?  The people who care are typically gamers.  I want to move to the upper left (2 keys), while walking (1 key), and casting a spell (1 key), and taunting the guy I am casting the spell on (1 key).   This was also an issue when I rewired an old keyboard to make two player arcade controls.  All of the sudden, one player couldn’t move.  It was because their movements were getting masked.  It seems like a feature that should just be there in a premium keyboard, but like the number pad, often overlooked.

With a keyboard that is going to cost over $100, you expect quality.  The #3 thing that I was expecting was quality.  With the Mech4, I knew going in that it was a mechanical keyboard with Cherry black keys.  That means that the keystokes were going to take a consistent amount of pressure to register.  There are a lot of keyboards out there that have keys that are not consistent with the pressure you need to press a key.  Test out your keyboard (I apologize if I have now made typing annoying for you :)).  Cherry black keys are also somewhat loud.  You need to know that going in.  It doesn’t bother me, and my cat is currently lying with her left-rear foot about 1/2 inch from the keyboard, so it’s not too much of an issue for us.  A co-worker may not be so happy about the noise though.

Those were the three major criteria for me.  There are a few keyboards that meet this.  And, as you already know, I purchased the AZiO Levetron Mech4.  It not only meets my three criteria, but it adds a few interesting changes from your normal keyboard.  There are programmable buttons on the left of the keyboard, a button to turn on and off the ‘windows’ key, a volume knob, and a neat little contraption that sits on the top of the keyboard and provides six additional programmable buttons.  The keyboard is a rock, the skid pads are huge so it doesn’t move around on my desk, and it has a built-in palm rest.

On the negative side, there are a few things they could improve.  The keyboard takes two USB connections and does not have any option for using a PS/2 connection.  The sides of the keyboard, where the number pad would plug in if I used it, take up about 2 inches of space on the sides of the keyboard that I consider wasted.  Back-lighting on the keys was not a show-stopper to me, but may be for some other users.  Unlike some people, I usually have the lights on when I am working or playing.

Finally, someone is paying attention to keyboards!  AZiO has made a product that should make other vendors take notice.  Perhaps, more innovation will come in the near future and we all can benefit from the creative thinking that has made its way into products like the AZiO Levetron Mech4 Keyboard.

There are other reviews on this product on-line.  Please check those out as well before making a decision with your money.  As you can tell my this review, I am quite pleased with the purchase.

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It’s about time for some enjoyable reading. This time, I decided to to opt for something in the science fiction realm. It was a snap decision to buy Pathfinder.  I have read Ender’s Game and thought it to be awesome.  So why not another book by the same author?

Pathfinder initially struck me in two ways.  First, the cover is one of the best covers I’ve ever seen.  The blue color is great, it is shiny :), and it has a dagger on it.  The second thing that struck me is that it is 600+ pages long.  I really wasn’t expecting that much, but in the days of Harry Potter, perhaps that is what people are expecting.

I mention Harry Potter because this is also a book intended for teens.  I appreciate a few things about Orson’s writing in this book.  It is as clear as possible.  He goes through great lengths to explain what is going on in the “science” parts.  At the end of the book, he actually reviews what is the most perplexing of these in length. His writing is clear and straight forward.  It is clean enough where I would have no problems reading it to a pre-teen (although I don’t expect they would understand everything that was going on).

Pathfinder is an adventure.  It takes the reader to places that have never been thought of before.  It also ties this place in with concepts we already know.  Things everyone has knowledge of such as sailing, taverns, and friendships are in the book so we feel like we can relate to this new world.  He describes this world brilliantly.  From the waterfalls to the Tower of O (you have to read it to know what the Tower of O is :)), you feel like you are there.

The reader is left with more questions then answers.  It felt like watching the TV show Lost.  For every question that was answered, two more popped up.  Some things were explained incredibly well and other things were ignored all together.  The dagger that is on the cover of the book is a good example of this.  It is on the cover of the book and yet hardly gets mention in the book.  In this way it feels like an incomplete adventure.  My guess is that is because there is a sequel coming out later this year.

The characters are memorable and distinct.  Each one of them plays a role that only they can play.  It makes for interesting displays of teamwork when their “powers” are used together.  One of the abilities that Rigg (the main character) has been taught is the ability to observe his surroundings.  Some of the best parts of the book are when he uses this analytical skill to play mind games with other people.  He will notice things that others may not and that gives him the upper hand in getting his desired result.

There are intertwined stories going on in Pathfinder.  Since some of the characters were more likable than others,  I kept thinking how much I wanted to know what was going on with the characters I did like.  Orson does a good job of mentioning those other characters even though we are following someone else.  This way, we don’t just forget what was going on and remember that we are getting two or three (or four?) stories in one book.

The pacing of the book is slow at the beginning and then faster towards the end.  It is more of an adventure book then an action book.  That written, some of the last chapters were full of action and made me forget just how much I should be sleeping and not up reading.

I had a good time reading Pathfinder and will most likely read it again to my son when he is old enough to understand it.  As fun and adventurous as this book is, leaving things open-ended doesn’t much appeal to me, if I’m left with more questions after the second book in the series; I’ll probably stop reading there.

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People are predictably irrational.   We make decisions based on many factors.  Sometimes that leads us to the right place for the right reasons; other times we are lead to the wrong place for the wrong reasons; other times we are lead to the the right place for the wrong reason.

Lately, I’ve been examining the choices that I make.  Why did I buy that PS3?  I can’t play games.  I need that time to write in my blog, or perhaps mow my lawn, or perhaps read chapter two of Predictably Irrational.

Chapter one in this book is awesome.  You should buy the book just for that chapter.   Dan does a great job of explaining how, when we compare things, we can end up getting something that we didn’t really want.  It is better to understand what we actually need instead of being lead by comparisons.

There are few books where the message is so clear and applicable.  Here is the meaning of that chapter in my own words:

Life is a competition; it is you against you.

We all thought we were the fastest until we lost a race, but does that mean we shouldn’t run?  Should we dwell on the fact that we are not the fastest people on the planet?  Of course, this is not the case.  We should do what ever we can with what we have.

I will never be the best software developer on the planet.  Does that mean that I will never write code that helps millions of people?  Of course not!

The only reason to dwell on the accomplishments of others is to gain inspiration.  Never sell yourself short.  Never quit just because there are people who could probably do it better.  Just keep living life to the fullest.

It seems odd that I got all of that from one chapter in a book.  I’m excited to finally write this so I can get to the other chapters.

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There are very few television shows that I watch.  When “The Apprentice” is on I try to catch it.  Why?  Because Donald Trump is like the Dr. Phil of business.  It’s amazing to me how he gets people to say things that they may or may not want to say. People typically focus on a symptom and not the actual problem.  He is a master at cutting through to the problem.

This book is about 25 years old.   Even though it is an oldie, I still wanted to read this book in order to learn about his background, and also see if that gives some insights on what makes him so perceivably successful.

The book begins with a week in the life of Donald Trump.  It was an impressive week.  There were deals that he was working on that have far exceeded my lifetime earnings.  How exciting (and depressing (if you believe in comparisons))!  There was one important thing that I picked up from this.  Few things where actually driven by him.  He had a lot of people who where presenting him with ideas or providing recommendations to him.  He has an exciting life, but without these other people, what would he be?  During this part of the book, I was thinking about the importance of keeping trustworthy and influential friends.

Donald comes from a family of privilege.  His father was an influential real-estate developer.  He came from influence, but his father didn’t baby his son.  There was a trust fund, that was, admittedly, huge, but for someone who could’ve given his son enough money so he would never have to work, it’s a step in the right direction.  He had to open the doors for himself to some extent.  Given the amount of success Donald and his siblings had, this approach must’ve done something right.  They provided the door, but it was up to their children to open it.

A good portion of the book is dedicated towards projects he had completed or was working on.  Quick observations:

  • If Donald likes you, he really talks well about you.  If Donald doesn’t like you, he really talks poorly about you.  Partially reminds me of a Carnegie quote, “Be hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise”.
  • Deals of a large magnitude have many moving parts.  Your project is only as strong as the weakest part.
  • Luck happens sometimes, but it happens more often when you look around.
  • There are a ton of regulations around real-estate.  Those regulations give ultimate power for the project to government officials.
  • He has an obsession for the best.
  • Whenever the risk can be passed onto others, he does it.
  • Trump is a symbol.  The business equivalent of Batman.
  • Speaking of symbols, advertising something as the “world’s biggest” will sell.
  • It is great to read a book about someone who has had the experiences as Donald Trump.  The contrast between the beginning of the book and the end of the book is my favorite part.  In the beginning there is excitement and grand visions.  The last chapter talks about the results from those grand visions.  It was interesting to see how reality sets in, even for someone as famous as Donald Trump.  Not everything he touches turns to gold.  He is under the same rules as the rest of us.He dreams big.

The project that resonates the most after reading the book is the Wollman rink.  Trump totally embarrasses Ed Koch, the mayor of New York at the time.  He really rips on the incompetence of the people who worked on the original rink plans.  I really think this hurt him in the long run.  The mayor has a lot of influence.  Make him mad; and your projects suddenly fail.  Perhaps the moral lesson is “Don’t burn bridges” or “Don’t publicly say anything negative about anyone”.  The obvious lesson is that the right leadership can make a huge difference.

It has an incomplete feel to it as a lot of the things he was working on are still in progress. It is good be able to to see the outcomes of these projects. The flip side of the successful Wollman project was the failure to build the world’s tallest building.  Perhaps, if he had not ruffled so many feathers, that vision would’ve been better received and, possibly, realized.  Perhaps not.

Few of his failures were mentioned in the book.  The only failures that were mentioned lead to something positive.  Although I like this type of lifestyle, when more projects fail then succeed, and this book is 95% success stores; it comes across as unbelievable.  He comes across as more than human (a symbol :)?).

I didn’t get many insights into what makes him so good at cutting to the core of a problem.  Perhaps he has learned it though just the sheer number of times he has worked with different people or the number of experiences he has had.

It is great to read a book about someone who has had the experiences as Donald Trump.  The contrast between the beginning of the book and the end of the book is my favorite part.  In the beginning there is excitement and grand visions.  The last chapter talks about the results from those grand visions.  It was interesting to see how reality sets in, even for someone as famous as Donald Trump.  Not everything he touches turns to gold.  He is under the same rules as the rest of us.

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OpenSuse 11.0 was released on June 19, 2008. Shortly thereafter, it was installed and running on my laptop.  OpenSuse has many draws, I’ll try and touch on the reasons why I chose it for my laptop and why it will stay on my laptop for the foreseeable future.

  • It has corporate backing from Novell, a company that seems quite determined to put Linux on the business desktop
  • It is less experimental than Fedora
  • The package management is quite good and faster than any other rpm based distribution
  • I wanted to grok KDE 4

OpenSuse Screenshot

KDE4

My KDE4 experience didn’t last long.  I really want to like KDE, but I’m just not productive in it.  This isn’t really the fault of the desktop environment as much as it is the applications.  In gnome, I am used to having all applications use a virtual file system so that media can be played over remote locations such as ssh shares.  I couldn’t find a way to do this in KDE with the available software.  I ended up installing gnome instead.

Gnome Applications

OpenSuse is unique than most other distributions with its application defaults.  Novell is actively developing gnome desktop applications that are based on mono.  Examples of this are the banshee media player, f-spot photo manager, and tomboy note taking application.  It includes these applications by default.

I believe f-spot to be the best photo manager that Linux currently has.  The features that I enjoy the most are how it arranges by photos in a timeline, the speed in which one can browse though photos, and the ability to tag photos easily.

Banshee has one killer feature, video.  Why this was so important to me at the time was that it provided the ability to download and watch video podcasts.  It’s a solid media player, but it isn’t leaps ahead of other applications in the space.

Beagle is the default desktop search engine.  It works ok.  There is a direct competitor in Tracker.  I don’t see any benefit to Beagle over Tracker.

There is also an alternate launch button.  This is like the start button in window.  I really like having my favorite and last launched applications available and in front of me; however, I don’t like having to click on more applications to open a menu to launch any other application.

Packages

OpenSuse absolutely excels in the package space.  The sites that you want to check out are http://software.opensuse.org/search and http://packages.opensuse-community.org. Most of the application searches will result in the package being found and provided though a convent one-click installation.

This was great for when I needed to install things like NetBeans 6.1.  I just searched and clicked the install button on the web page.

Issues

Ah the fun part.  A wise man once said that Linux doesn’t have a lack of drivers, it has a lack of quality drivers.  Most of the issues that I experienced initially were due to driver issues.

The atheros card in the laptop shows up as follows in lspci
04:00.0 Ethernet controller: Atheros Communications Inc. AR242x 802.11abg Wireless PCI Express Adapter (rev 01)
This particular card didn’t work with the new ath5k driver as I would’ve hoped.  There was a patch at the time, but it was only for the 32bit version of Linux.  Tickets for this can be found here http://madwifi.org/ticket/1679 and here http://madwifi.org/ticket/1192.

The second driver issue has to do with the intel video card.  It was shipped with broken s-video ouput.  Even though it showed up in xrandr, it just didn’t work.  Doing a software search and installing an intel driver found there fixed the issue.

Advanced desktop effects were unusable due to slowness issues I had.  Video playback would slow to a crawl when compiz-fusion was enabled.

Putting the computer to sleep does not work.  I attribute this to acer’s acpi more than anything.  It’s not a big deal for my everyday use, but it’s something that Linux struggles with and continues to do so.

There are a few usability issues.  They are annoying and have been covered in other reviews.

Virtualization

Virtualization is a must have for me and many others.  The easies way to get this done in OpenSuse is to install VirtualBox.  It runs without issues and runs on the currently installed kernel.  I tried the Xen installation and configuration through Yast, but the kernel crashed would not boot to a desktop, so I scrapped it and used VirtualBox instead.  It makes more sense to use it in a laptop scenario as Xen kernels don’t support CPU throttleing.

Configuration

OpenSuse uses YAST or Yet Another Setup Tool.  YAST has more configuration capabilities than any other Linux configuration tool I’ve seen.  Most of them even work!  It isn’t the end all configuration too yet, but it is quite good.

Novell

I am choosing to abstain from the Novell vs the free software community battle.  There are many places where this is documented beyond my knowledge.

Bottom Line

The availability of a wide range of software is really the kicker for me.  It’s great.  The updates are less frequent than other distributions and the functionality that works is quite stable.  Typically, I’ll switch distributions due to a time wasting issue that is distribution specific.  I don’t see that happening with OpenSuse.  When an issue arises, it seems to be hardware and Linux specific rather than distribution specific. It is, in a word, usable.  Download the livecd and give it a try.

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I like movies. Expecially good ones. Rotten tomatoes has just ranked Ratatouille as the best movie of this year so far. Here’s why it’s not.

1. Waaay too much of the “We’re gonna die!!!!!!!! We’re ok now!!!!! We’re gonna die!!!!!” type of excitement. See Finding Nemo for a really good example of this annoyance.

2. Over reactions. A good example of this is when Grandma decided to shoot the rats with a shotgun while indoors. Also, why was everyone sooo mad when they found out that a rat was cooking?
3. Suspention of belief. I’m ok with talking rats. I’m ok with a guy who can serve really well when he’s never done it before. Where I draw the line is controlling a person through pulling their hair.

My pick for the summer is Transformers 🙂 . Ratatouille just isn’t that good.

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I’ve been an off and on follower of WWE wrestling. Yes, I know it’s fake. I like to watch the athletic moves that they pull off. My wife bought me tickets for my birthday and we attended the RAW showing on March 26. Here’s a few observations.

They don’t allow cameras into the event. I wanted to take some pictures to remember the event by, but couldn’t. The security guard stated that the event was a production. I thinks it is more of a seen it once seen it a thousand times issue. If they allow pictures to be taken, why come back?

The event really did feel like a production, specifically, a play. The different wrestlers seemed to be part of acts that they played roles in. The audience was simply an audience and didn’t play a role at all in the play.
The wrestlers are big people. The don’t look bigger in real life then they do on television. I came within a couple of feet of the Great Kahli. That guy is big.

The moves the wrestler’s perform are directed towards the camera. I was sitting on the opposite side of the ring. The moves looked much more staged from that angle. Without the camera shake that you get when watching on television, the moves don’t look that painful at all.

I was lucky enough to be on the kiss cam. That’s right, I kissed my wife while on the big screen. I’m looking to see if that part was televised. My climb to fame continues.

It wasn’t a great time, but it was a good birthday present. The audience participation was too low for it to be something I’d be interested in doing again soon.

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I’ve always been a fan of Nexus products.  I mentioned before that when a product is good, I buy from it until it fails.  The power supply was dishing out one of those obnoxious high-pitched squeals that really drive me nuts.  There is another one of these units in my desktop machine that I’m typing this on right now.  There’s no such noise coming from that one.  I’m assuming this is a defect and am going to try to get a manufacturer replacement.  We’ll see how that goes.

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