AirPrint compatible printers… who needs them?

It’s fast approaching the festive season… and it might be an appropriate time to roll out the pantomime saying “Oh no it isn’t” in relation to the following statement which is part of this recent CRN Post:

The much vaunted wireless ‘tap and print’ feature, AirPrint, however is currently only supported by three Hewlett-Packard printers: Photosmart, LaserJet Pro and Officejet. 

Well to be fair, to the non techies it’s probably true… however, to the innovative sorts out there determined to find another way it’s not true… because there is a way to use AirPrint with any printer.

How do I know this? Well, I recently blogged here that I was impressed by iOS4.2 and was giving my iPhone one more chance. The next day a friend posted a comment:

However, all is not lost, if you have a Mac you can get hold of Printopia, which will enable any printer that your Mac can use, to be available to your iOS4.2 devices, alternatively if you’re still running a Windows box, then you could try this.

Being a poor windows user, and not wanting to shell out a few grand for a decent Mac, even though it has its appeal. I decided to try the solution from Javox and voila it worked for me.

*** disclaimer … I don’t accept any responsibility if this doesn’t work for you or if you trash your PC in the process. ***  

I also had to make a few adjustments along the way, such as:

Running the CMD console as an administrator (which you do by selecting ‘All Programs’, ‘Accessories’ and right clicking on the CMD option and choose ‘run as administrator’).

Sharing the printer (which you do by right clicking on your default printer in ‘devices and printers’ and setting the ‘sharing’ option to on).

I also chose to set up a separate user just with printing permissions as you may be asked to log onto the printer the first time you print from your iPad or iPhone.

So there you have it… iPad printing on a Windows PC… of course, it might have been easier just to use the PC in the first place, but let’s not spoil the moment

How much do public clouds cost and are all things equal?

Most people have heard about the cloud and the benefit it brings in the shape of pay for what you use and rapid provisioning etc… Simple right… well yes and no.

Taking Amazon EC2 as an example… its sounds pretty simple to begin with…

Pay only for what you use. There is no minimum fee. Estimate your monthly bill using AWS Simple Monthly Calculator. The prices listed are based on the Region in which your instance is running. For a detailed comparison between On-Demand Instances, Reserved Instances and Spot Instances, see Amazon EC2 Instance Purchasing Options.

But read on, and you discover you can choose between ‘free tier’ or ‘on-demand’ or ‘reserved instances’ both with different pricing models, and you can even bid to buy unused capacity in the shape of a ‘spot instance’. You’re maybe thinking that when you’ve worked this all out then you’re done… not quite. On top of this you then incur data transfer charges, elastic load balancing and Amazon S3 block storage charges.

I wonder how many people pick something small and simply put their credit card details in hoping the bill at the end of the month won’t be too bad?

Well, a word of advice… If you’re running a small application periodically (and remember to shut it down, because you’ll still be charged if you leave the lights on) then you’ll be amazed how little this costs. However, if you’re running a decent sized business application 24×7 then you’ll be amazed how much the costs mount up… and you might even resort to searching for the chap who told you that cloud was cheaper than owning your own hardware.

To compare and contrast let’s have a look how Microsoft promote Azure, again pretty simple on the surface:

You have two basic types of offers to choose from when purchasing a Windows Azure platform subscription. The first type is consumption offers. This type requires no commitment – you pay only for what you use. The second type of offer is a commitment offer that provides a significantly discounted level of service in return for a six month commitment to pay a monthly base fee. Any usage in excess of this amount is charged at our standard consumption rates. Here is a summary of our different plans:  

There is also a MSDN Premium license for developers, but like Amazon when you get into the detail it can be complex. What’s more they offer packages in the shape of a Development Accelerator Core a Development Accelerator Extended and a SQL Azure Development Accelerator Core … Fantastic… erm no… this is confusing for a seasoned IT person. I wonder what a small or medium sized business looking to move some systems to the cloud would make of it. 

Rackspace are another one of the ‘big cloud players’ and their proposition seems much easier to understand on the surface:

You pay for each Cloud Server (virtual instance) by the hour. For your convenience, the monthly totals are also listed here.

However, on top of the basic instance you again have to pay for data transfer costs and also you need to pay for cloud files storage (similar to Amazon S3) and the cost varies depending if you run a Linux or the more expensive Windows OS. 

Amazon, Microsoft and Rackspace, although big names, are only a small sample of dozens of cloud providers operating today…  have a look at to see some of the others.

The cloud is for everyone, but not for everything…

It’s decided… the Iphone gets one more chance.

Just downloaded iOS4.2 for the ipad and it looks great, I really like the Airplay and multitasking features… Can’t yet get Airprint to work, which for me has filled a huge gap in functionality… even though I have a wireless printer, most likely my model isn’t supported.

So what has this to do with the Iphone? well as I type this I’m downloading iOS4.2 for the iPhone. After the OS is installed I’m going to reset and take the phone back to basics.

If this works i’ll be delighted, but if like today, it still drops calls, then it’s curtains.

Innovation is the conversion of ideas into cash and Invention is the conversion of cash into ideas.

Do you work in the Innovation business or are you an Inventor… do you know the difference?

I was intrigued when I originally wrote this post way back in January after reading a story that defined the meaning of innovation as the execution of an idea, whereas creativity was having the idea in the first place. Most people I speak to would instinctively lump these two things together and call them innovation. So, I went off to the web to check this out; here I found a number of meanings. A couple that jumped off the page were…

 “Innovation can be described as the result of some amount of time and effort into researching (R) an idea, plus some larger amount of time and effort into developing (D) this idea, plus some very large amount of time and effort into commercialising this idea into a market place with customers”.

Being from an R&D background, this strikes a chord with me as it combines the idea and the delivery, and more importantly it goes further to look at commercialising… I wonder how many companies put all of their effort into the first two parts and forget the last and arguably most important part?  I have to say that I’ve seen this happen on more than one occasion.

Building on this point, I came across another thought provoking statement…

“Innovation is the conversion of ideas into cash. Invention is the conversion of cash into ideas.”

How many businesses set out to innovate but end up inventing? How many people remember the £40 million ATP Train innovation or invention? How many businesses really turn ideas into cash?  How many innovations end up costing the company a small fortune? And how many great ideas have gone down the pan because a company couldn’t commercialise them?

Back in january, I was watching this youtube video posted by Dennis Howlett, It’s a chap called R “Ray” Wang presenting how a major software vendor had failed to commercialise some great ideas.

Why does this happen? Did they get it wrong from a customer perspective? Did they work with customers to see if the original ideas were valued before they went on to deliver them? Did they fail to commercialise them? Do the company see this as a failure? Or was it actually a ‘share of voice’ Marketing and PR success despite the ideas not being widely adopted? Plenty of food for thought, and only the vendor themselves will know the answers.

Is the secret behind innovating to ask customers what they want before you start?

Controversially, I would have to say no to this question, well not entirely anyway… Whilst, I would advocate speaking to customers at all times and involving them through the process to add value, you can’t always rely on customers as your only source of “innovative ideas”. What’s more the customer will most likely be focused on today’s issues as opposed to looking for step change innovation. Henry Ford’s classic quote (where would we all be without good old Henry Ford and his horse), sums this up nicely…

“If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have told me a faster horse.”

To be really successful in business I believe you have to continually innovate and generate new ideas, not by relying solely on customers to tell you what they want, but by understanding how your customers work, what they need today, and where they are headed in the future.

In my experience the best and most successful innovations are the ones where you deliver something that the customer didn’t know they needed but can’t live without. But they don’t come along by accident, you have to be prepared to sow the seeds and nurture the idea, which takes patience and resolve, and it could take years.  

And what happens when you run out of ideas?

Go visit a bunch of customers!

cross posted @ here

Spam, Ham and Yummy Pie…

Like many other sites I receive my fair amount of Spam comments left on my blog…

However, because I use WordPress, I’m protected by the Akismet spam filter, and having a poke around over lunch today I find out there is more to spam than meets the eye, in fact there is spam and ham. The definition goes like this…

Spam most people know as the unwanted commercial comments on their blog, its counterpart we call ham to indicate legitimate comments. On the Akismet mistakes side, missed spam is pretty self-explanatory, but a false positive is what it’s called when we incorrectly identify a legitimate comment as spam. (Which hopefully happens exceedingly rarely.) 

Whilst that is pretty self-explanatory, and they also show you a “yummy pie” which is a pie chart showing the proportion of ham vs. spam.

So there you go, Spammers you’re wasting your time here…. Be off with you!

Is it time to throw my iPhone in the bin or does it deserve one more chance?

For years I used a blackberry with great pleasure… but a year or so ago, like many others, I was lured by the iPhone 3GS.

I look back now and have to admit to being caught up in the gadget hype, and the “as someone who works in IT why are you still using that old Blackberry” conversations with friends.

Anyway I persisted with the iPhone and actually came to like it, despite it suffering from connectivity issues (especially in built up areas), being a pretty ordinary phone, having a poor keyboard, costing a fortune to use abroad, having a ridiculously poor battery life and it being white… couldn’t wait for a black one, so I bought a cover at the same time.

Not all bad though… I liked it better than the Blackberry to read email (my eyes aren’t good at very small font… too many years in front of a PC), to read my twitter feed, to use maps for directions, to track my flights and more recently use it as a paperless boarding pass, the catch up on news, to use mobile Skype, and to listen to music and even watch the odd movie whilst on my many travels.

All in all I was managing quite nicely… but then it all went horribly wrong… Apple released iOS4 and my world was shattered (okay maybe that’s overplaying for effect, but maybe not!!)

My email started to freeze, requiring a reboot of the device 4 or 5 times a day, My telephone calls started dropping out, worse still the phone would reboot itself indiscriminately, My contacts started to corrupt, and My Bluetooth stopped working with my car.

I had the chance early on to revert back to iOS3, but didn’t take it… I put my faith in Apple to sort it out… surely millions of other people around the world were suffering the same fate.

Disappointingly, Apple hasn’t sorted it out… I have installed every update since the original 4.0 and flattened the phone a couple of times to clear everything down… and whilst things have gradually improved, I’m still experiencing problems today… worse still they blocked the path back to iOS3.

So I’m waiting eagerly the iOS4.2 release and it either works and Apple redeem themselves… or the iPhone goes in the bin…

Will I choose an iPhone 4 as a replacement… absolutely not, I’ve had it with Apple and this debacle… right now I’m feeling more inclined to defect to Android… any other views?

My beloved iPad will never replace my beloved Laptop

I’ve been an iPad user since they were released and I have to start by saying it’s a great device as well as being a cool gadget… However, it will never replace my laptop… Why?

Well let me start on a positive with what I like about it:

The boot up time is excellent, log on and bingo, PC manufacturers and Microsoft take heed!

The battery life is excellent, much better than my laptop.

Watching movies is good, although not fantastic quality when played on a TV or external device.

A good selection of apps available from the AppStore … not a huge selection as I’m not including iPhone apps which run on the iPad but don’t use the device properly.

So, what don’t I find as good?

The keyboard, whilst being very responsive isn’t a fantastic experience when trying to edit text, getting the cursor in the right place is a pain.

The lack of flash support is a massive drawback, 50% of the sites I try to visit use flash and I can’t use the iPad to get to them.

On some non flash sites I can get to, I have problems scrolling data entry screens, Eg blog sites like this when I try and add a comment I can’t scroll up or down if I’ve entered more than 4 lines… WordPress is a good example of this, very tricky to create a new blog post on the iPad.

The output to TV and projectors isn’t good quality, and I was miffed that my iPhone cable wasn’t supported on the iPad… Sales gimmick?

And finally I question the ergonomics of the iPad, for prolonged use it stresses the neck as you need to look down on it as opposed to forwards with a PC. I know this for definite as I’ve experienced these problems whilst using the iPad whilst travelling. I wonder how long it will be before someone sues Apple or their employer on the grounds of health and safety?

So I summary, whilst I cherish my iPad and can’t see myself giving it up soon… It will never replace my PC, which is the tool I will continue to use every day for business.