Business

Relaunch And Rebirth - Our Site Moved

Rude Awakening album cover
Image via Wikipedia

To all that may have had an issue getting to the website, I'm very sorry.  We have moved... well, I have moved.  For a number of reasons, the hosting company that I was using, Bluehost.com, was not meeting my requirements:

  • Their support personnel, though intelligent, have often been rude when responding to issues.  They have straight up refused to help with an issue that was clearly on their end.
  • Admin work they were performing in an unannounced maintenance window actually deleted my website.
  • The shared hosting service that I was on was routinely overloaded and nothing was ever done to the load even after I had brought it up a number of times.  There were times when my mostly text site would take nearly 40 seconds to load... in internet time, that was an age.

So what have I done?  Well, I've taken action and seen an opportunity here.  Not only will I NEVER DO BUSINESS WITH THEM AGAIN, I will be taking all of my properties over to Godaddy.com.  I've had good experiences with Godaddy thus far and have even recommended them to clients and friends alike.  Goodbye Bluehost.  Take your slow service and unresponsive techs and keep them to yourself.

The new project is ambitious.  I have left the traditional 'shared hosting' behind for the next step up in the evolution of my digital life.  For the time being, all of the North West Wind Productions properties - jamesconnors.com, collegetechcentral.com, bualumni.org, and buakpsi.com - will be hosted on a virtual dedicated server.  This move has started this past week and will continue through the next month.  Each property will move on its own schedule depending on the critical nature of the content.

I'm proud to say that the old website, Jamesmconnors.com, is now relaunched as jamesconnors.com - hopefully this will be easier for people to find and get involved with.  So far, so good.  I've been able to make some good changes thus far and the site has never been faster.  At the same time, I'm getting some amazing experience configuring in a linux environment and it's really nice to have the added horsepower of a virtual dedicated server.

Hopefully you're seeing improvements to the site as we're moving forward too.  But, I'm curious.  Where do you host your website/blog?  Do you use a hosted service like wordpress.com or blogger?  Do you opt for shared hosting?  Virtual dedicated or fully hosted?

  • Why Choose a Dedicated Web Hosting Company?
  • Types of Web Hosting - Assessing Your Website's Needs
  • Determining the Appropriateness of Shared Hosting or Dedicated Hosting to Your Needs
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A Moment In History - the First Black President

Inauguration Day 2009
Image by The Visions of Kai via Flickr

Today is a historic day.  We are about to swear in our first black president.  Not too far back in our history, our beloved country subjected anyone of a different race to slavery and worse but now Barack Obama will lead our country into a new chapter in our history.

So, around this country, men and women will pause for a few moments of their day and tune into the inauguration on TV, streamed online, or listen in on the radio.  Thousands more have swarmed to the nation's capital, Washington D.C., to honor our new president and celebrate the closing of our last.

I am sitting here in my apartment, relaxing with a cup of tea, watching the events unfold on NBC.  It's an odd feeling that I have right now.  Am I fond of President Bush?  No, not really.  However, I do have to respect that he has kept our country safe following the tragedy of September 11, 2001.  The circumstances that surrounded his presidency have been the most extreme that I've seen in my lifetime. BUT

It's time for Change.

I am excited for Barack Obama to take office today.  I am excited to see what he says.  I am excited for our country to get back to the business of being a nation leading the rest of the world.  Let's make the change by being the Change YOU Want to See.

America Can Learn A Thing or Two; Part Two

WASHINGTON - DECEMBER 05:  A crowd gathers for the annual lighting of the U.S. Capitol Christmas tree on the West Front of the capitol December 5, 2007 in Washington, DC. This year's tree, a 55-foot balsam fir from Vermont's Green Mountain National Forest, is decorated with strands of energy-efficient LED (Light Emitting Diodes) lights as part of the Captiol's commitment to save energy.   

Image by Getty Images via Daylife

One of the biggest energy hogs for any building would be the lighting and the climate controls.  I've seen varying amounts of integrations both in the US as well as abroad.  I have to say, though, the Irish design and architecture do a great job of using their designs to reduce the consumption of energy for airconditioning and lighting.  By leveraging open dynamic cooling, novel insulation methods, and available lights, the United States could reduce their consumption of energy.

One of the first things that I noticed when I walked into the Quinn School of Business was that the atrium was wide open... I mean WIDE open.  The ceiling was transparent to let in as much light as possible - there were even trees freestanding on the ground floor.  It gave the entire building a spacious, airy feel that limited the use of artificial light as much as possible.  It was always bright and this allowed supplemental lighting by way of indirect light - it wasn't as harsh on the eyes at all.  Take note, USA.

Where the two come together is another interesting thing that I've never seen anywhere but Ireland.  At the top edge of a line of windows on the exterior of buildings, there is a grill arrangement with angled slats.  These slats angle off the light depending on the sun's position in the day.  It allows two different savings.  First, by giving a shade to the window, there is no need to lower shades which would block out too much light and therefore require the use of lighting.  The second is that by reducing the need to tint the glass, as is the custom in the states, colder climates such as Ireland will be able to utilize the natural convection heating and not need to turn on the heaters.

When it comes to design, besides the transparent ceilings and the like, there are a few design characteristics that Ireland just nails.  The first was that shade above windows - that's great for reducing consumption.  The second really noticeable and beautiful design feature is the use of what I would call buffer space inside windows.  Basically one completely clear pane of glass is either outside the line of the building's walls or flush but then about a foot or two behind that is the interior pane.  By creating an open buffer, a wall of air, between the structural glass, heating and cooling efficiency is greatly improved.  It's similar to how double paned glass keeps windows from leaking heat but on a grander scale.  Colder air in the shadows would be able to cool the heated air in the sunny parts to make for a temperate average temperature.

By combining technologies such as these with designs discussed here, I think that the United States could do a lot to reduce electricity consumption and ultimately the need for oil dependency.  More to come this week!

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Weekend Of Lasts

Trim Castle  

Image via Wikipedia

This is our last weekend in Ireland...

This thought screamed through my head this morning as I woke up.  Tomorrow is the last full Saturday that we'll be in the country, the last Sunday, Monday et all, following too.  This weekend is last bit of our European adventure.   I'm left stunned at all we did.  I'm stunned with all that I've done.  I came here saying "no judgement" and "no regrets" so it's been a few days that I've been thinking back through trying to evaluate my successes on that account.

It's time to remember the great times, the trying times, the hard times, the late nights of laughs, and the early mornings of tears.  It's been a trip filled with a lot of firsts and a lot of lasts.  Funny how the time seems to have been stolen back away from us.  It was just yesterday that I was feeling the same bits of anxiety as I prepared to embark on this adventure in January... I have those feelings again.  What will Boston, the US, the summer have in store for us - for me?

At the same time, I feel myself getting ramped up for production.  I fell into this semester from the highest functioning lifestyle that I've ever experienced.  Needless to say, my Irish lifestyle did not match the fervor of that pace.  Having completed a number of phone interviews in the last few days, the first few conference calls for Accenture and some student groups, I'm reminded what it feels like to be back "on edge."  Listening to my fellow interns address the analysts on the call while my mic was muted gave me the first example of how we Americans are always "on edge."  They sounded tense, wound up but held back - like a mouse trap ready to spring.  Is that really how we are?

This weekend will be busy with seeing my Irish friends and saying goodbye to them.  We have the International Street Performers Championship going on too - I hope to make it over to Marrion Square for that one.  Here's one that I never thought I'd find here in Ireland - International Gay Rugby Championship.  I was on the bus with one team and helped steer them to the pitches the other day.  In any event, they will be playing for an international cup this weekend just a few hundred meters away from our accomodation.

My projects are on their way to completion.  I was able to collect over 115 responses to my online survey regarding student experience - that was amazing!  Thank you to all that participated.  That will be going into my research project that I will present to my office on Tuesday and hand in a report on Thursday.  Also due on Thursday will be my research project comparing the Irish and American teaching methods at University as well as a internship journal.  So, needless to say there will be a lot of working to be done... and of course, as soon as I say that the roommates are telling me that we're going to some gardens.  So stay tuned for further info, I guess.

PS - photos are now up at my new flickr account.

 

 

 

 

Conducting Research on Student Experience - Please Help

A mathematics lecture, apparently about linear algebra, at Helsinki University of Technology (HUT) — Teknillinen korkeakoulu (TKK) in Espoo Finland.

Image via Wikipedia

Second post for the day - I'm asking for your help.

As part of my time abroad, I am required to do a fair bit of research.  I am currently working on a research project looking into a concept known as "student experience" and I need your help.  All I'm asking for is that you take 5 minutes to take a very short survey.

URL: Help me with my research

The above URL will bring you to survey monkey where I have put together a 5 minute survey.  Please take a few moments to fill it out and help me with my research but also help companies and institutions improve the experience that students, faculty, administrators, and parents have when dealing with the administration.  It only takes five minutes or less.

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15 Days To Go

I promise that I will write more... I promise, promise, promise.

As the headline says, our program has 15 days remaining before we leave the Emerald Isle for the harsh realities of the United States. I don't mean that to be a negative statement but rather a sobering fact. We've been in a world where a dollar means nothing, where cars run on the wrong side of the road, where it rains every day (almost). Returning to Boston is going to be a shock to our system much the same way arriving in Dublin was - but we're "normal here" (not many of us are actually normal to begin with so... I'm not sure how to put that into thought, sorry).

Our impending departure illicits a whole plethora of emotions, mostly panic. There are a mulitude of things to wrap up here before I can even think about heading home. Our internships have projects that need to be delivered (more on mine in a few), we have a portfolio and research project for BU that no one has even looked at. On top of that, I just don't want to leave. I like the abstract world that we live in. My decisions here don't necessarily have real-world impact. Allow me to unpack that.

First, our grades don't matter. They do, but they don't. Whatever mark that we earn from University College Dublin is then passed through a matrix to yield a conversion to the "American" system. That matrix tells me that a 70% is an A... you tell me if you wouldn't laugh a little bit. Euros are funny money. Long past are the days that we were converting the currency in our minds. Pints are well over $7 USD and just hopping on the bus feels like an investment (over $2.70 each way). On top of all that, I speak differently. It's sloppy, inprecise, and sort of bugs me. I'll say something such as, "Oh, he was acting like a fool, like" and my questions no longer have the proper syllabic emphasis, e.g. questions don't end with your voice being "high" we sort of put it in the middle.

Did I mention that my rambling has gotten worse? That sentence was how many lines long... geez.

The moral of the story is that we're changed but it's as if we're in a playground. Our choices here don't impact our career (in theory). Mostly, I'm thinking of my internship with that thought. I'm using this experience as an opportunity to practice being at a real internship, practice for Accenture and EMC this summer. It's actually really helpful to see what I'll be able to get away with and what won't fly even whenconsidering what the different expectations will hold. I guess it's like I get to expell all the bad habits now... to include blogging while at work (oops).

So now that the kvetching is over, let's talk shop a little bit. I've been living in another culture for so long, I sometimes forget that all of you are sort of watching this game from the bleechers. I love Ireland. Despite the ups and downs in my personal life and the various other concerns that have come up, this semester will go down in my Wikipedia page as one of the best experiences ever. I am eternally grateful to my parents, Paul, Laura, and Brian, for their unending support, latenight phonecalls (my time, not theirs) - I could not have been here in Dublin without their support.

By the way, remember that melodramatic post a while ago about needing to find that "BIG" answer... some sort of wholistic change?  Well I found it.  Let me tell you a secret - it was with me the whole time.  Basically, I got a dose of reality - some would call it a good smattering of perspective.  Not only have I finally grown to see my parents as good friends instead of those people that try to embarrass me all the time, but I've found myself.  I've found the internal value in myself that doesn't require external validation for me to know that I'm me and that's really ok.

While my world no longer plays like a Las Vegas slot machine, I can tell there are going to be many, many new adventures to be had and all I have to do is be patient for them.  Hopefully you all will be a part of that with me.  I intend to quintuple efforts for this blog between now and my return.  There will be a few post-return entries that will hopefully have some interesting stories.  Then I'll be archiving these posts into my other blog, http://www.jamesmconnors.com under their own tags so they don't disappear when the jamesindublin domain expires.  Thank you for stopping by - I hope to see you next time!

 

 

Starting A "Real" Job

I've started a new chapter in my time here in Ireland. With exams now over, it's time that I turned my eyes away from the pages of notes and stick my head into the wild world of business. Yes, that's right, I'm at my new job... internship, work placement - whatever you want to call it. I just posted up a bit on how the whole exam thing went down... very interesting indeed. I'm currently mooching my lunch as much as possible and have the entire room of the office to myself. So, what am I doing? I'm working as a management intern at Campus IT ltd. Their main offices are in Dublin, Ireland with another office in the UK. It's an interesting company - they build software applications on top of Oracle database programs and sell them to colleges and universities. The real wonder is how they can exist when the market is so small. Since there are probably as many college in all of Ireland as there is in the Boston metro zone, I would say that their market is rather small.

What am I doing here? Well, it's not computers and it's not finance either. I'm actually going to be running a research project on what makes up a student's experience. Since their market is primarily the administration of these large colleges and universities, the student experience they talk about is the one that is tied to the differing models of administrative back-ends. I think it could be an interesting project and will definitely be a good conversation piece for future interviews. My role will be lead project manager, interviewer, head researcher, presenter, and coffee guy.

In reality, though, I'll have the opportunity to stretch this oddly creative brain of mine to try new things and experiment with the way I think. Having no background in sales, marketing, or market research, I wouldn't think that I'd be a good fit for the role BUT we had that amazing thing called the Cross Functional Core Curriculum! Hurray for Boston University School of Management and your ability to make me stretch my mind further and further every year.

I'll keep you all posted on the outcomes of the research and periodic updates for sure!

Amsterdam: Red Lights, Smokey Streets, and... Museums?

Well, there's a headline for you if I've ever seen one! This place known as Amsterdam is such an odd place for an American. From the get-go you're assaulted by foreign languages and strange sights but for some reason, it's not overwhelming. I flew into the city on Thursday afternoon not knowing how to get to town, how to get to the hotel, or really how to do much of anything in this new city. I made it... safe and sound. That's sort of been the theme of this trip so far - start with a goal and figure out how to get there. I'm sure there's some sort of deep moral statement floating in there somewhere but I've not found it yet. Probably something to do with having an end in sight and just working until you make it there.

So, allow me now, for a few moments, to pontificate about what it means to be in Amsterdam and how this city would never be possible in the States. First, the entire city is built for the people that live in it. Parking is about 35 euro a day so there aren't many cars around. To make up for that, there are THOUSANDS, and I mean THOUSANDS of bikes around everywhere. Every single spare space is filled with bikes locked to fences, railings, light posts, other bikes, and more. There are special lanes on every street for bikes to go through. These lanes have their own street-light system and are completely separate from the passengers. Trams are everywhere and go to every point in the city. We've yet to find ourselves lost in the city without some tram-rails sitting around nearby. It's great. All of the taxis are BMWs or Mercedes Benzs - clean, new, and expensive?

On the approach into the airport, I saw a number of firsts for me. At first it was the wind turbine farm that was off the coast. Next it was the turbines lining the major canals outside of the city. Then it was the canals themselves - they were both a great way to tour the city but also a means of travel. The Dutch have a very intricate energy plan here - something I wish we could make work for the states. On the canals, individual company lands had their own turbines - it was great! Who would have seen that coming?? States, take note.

Unavoidable when talking about Amsterdam is a discussion of the Red Light District. This was something I would have called Las Vegas if I didn't know better. Apart from the rest of the city, this area of town runs along two minor canals just south east of the central train station. Here, the setting changes from the quaint cultured structures of the rest of the city in exchange for neon neon neon. Girls here, sex toys there, a whole manner of debaucheries for those so inclined. Instead of Las Vegas' street vendors shoving cards of naked women into your hand along the street, the RLD was tame with the main drags being rather tame while letting the side alleys hold the practitioners of the world's oldest trade.

I still don't know how I feel about this whole situation. My mother would probably try to understand what they do by way of "cultural relativism" but I'm not sure that I can really agree there. The streets were crowded with on-lookers. Couples, homosexual and heterosexual, old people, young people, foreign and domestic. You name it and people came to gawk in hopes of seeing something but there weren't there to partake. Much like me, these people were just walking through the RLD - something that would leave a trip to Amsterdam otherwise unfinished. Sure you saw some Johns going in and coming out, heard the taps on the windows from girls in underwear etc. It was rather uncomfortable really. But just as soon as it started, it was over. The RLD is tiny - much smaller than I had imagined. In fact, it didn't really stand up to any of the preconceived notions that I had. It wasn't dirty, sketchy (too much), and was seemingly safe. Police on bikes, motorcycles, and cars patrolled the area much more often than other parts of the city. Security cameras were everywhere - who knows who was working them.

In general, it shows a rather mature approach to what we Americans look down upon as dirty and depraved. When reading some of the brochures of tours etc that were given to us in our room, we understood more the Dutch attitude towards the RLD. True, they are trying to get rid of it and they will eventually. But I'm not sure if that's the best way to control it. As it stands, the whores are unionized, have structured health tests, and apparently command a good salary. One history article mentioned that it was the oldest profession in the world, exploiting the woman's power in the work-place, and how it's a job that's portable. I personally see that as a bit of a romanticised version of dealing with it but whatever. I didn't partake but I don't look on others with disgust - it's a personal thing I suppose and everyone has their reasons, who am I to tell them theirs are wrong?

Another controversial topic bubbling through the canals that ring the city center is the bit about weed... It's legal here, you'll smell it EVERYWHERE from the shopping malls, to the Irish pubs, and definitely down the alleys where the "coffee shops" make their business.  It was strange... very strange.  Being on the outside of this one, I didn't really get it.  I know in the states that weed is illegal and all but for the most part, that law keeps it off the streets.  It's not something that is EVERYWHERE.  Perhaps it's because this is one of the few places where the drug is legalized and therefore everyone comes here to partake, but it sure seems like the legalization increases the amount of people in the general populace lighting up or even having to smell it.  The widespread use of marijuana calls up some concerns about safety - aren't there a bunch of commercials in the states about how driving high is just as bad as driving drunk?  Hmm... I guess that's why they have lots of trams and bikes...?  Then there's the thought - if it's legal, can you just go out for a smoke like people lighting up cigarettes while you're at work... that's gotta be different - maybe it'd make afternoon meetings more entertaining?

In general, I'm not convinced that the States ought to bring this drug to the legal market the way it is here.  Whether it's a matter of culture or if it's a matter of details, I'm don't think the States are the place to rock the boat on this one.  Yes, we can go back to cultural relativism and the like but at the end of the day I ask myself, is this what I want it to be like in Boston?  Resoundingly the answer is no.  Unlike the RLD, which doesn't publicly affect anyone else, those partaking of weed tend to affect those around them without their consent.  It's been so long since I've walked into a restaurant and been asked "smoking or non" that I'm not sure whether I could deal with being assaulted by weed-smoke every time I went to dinner.  Maybe the food spots would like it (reference munchies) but I doubt that their profitability would outweigh social welfare and responsibility.

The last bit that makes these last two topics so incongruous is the sheer density of museums here.  Every block there's a museum, especially around our hotel.  Granted, we're living in the Museum District, but even in other parts of the city there are MANY MANY places for one to visit the past.  So far, my favorite has been the Van Gogh museum - I actually felt as though I learned something that I didn't already know and found it interesting as well.  It was great.  His works were organized in chronological order and were accompanied by stories of his life.  I can definitely say that I knew more coming out of there than I did going in.  Not just about the painter, but about what it meant to be a painter.  Van Gogh, for those out of the know (haha), was a self-taught artist.  He rejected all formal training and refused to go the traditional route.  So, he set out on his own going into nature to discover the true forms of art and how to capture them.  He kept himself in strict discipline to study only sketches and then once mastered, moved into the paint.  His career was very short - he painted for a short 9 years before killing himself (another shocker).  We could see the progression in his artwork as he was influenced by new people with whom he came in contact.  We could see his skill building, peaking, and then fall away as his life dwindled in the twilight of his life.  Disturbing but in some ways poetically tragic.

So, I sit here in the hotel lobby alone hoping that my travel companion makes it back ok tonight as we sort of did our own separate things this evening.  We leave early tomorrow morning with a 10:20 departure from Amsterdam on our way to Barcelona.  It's going to be an interesting few days to be sure.  I'll do my best to keep you guys in the loop and whatnot but no promises.  Check out the contact page for more ways to get ahold of me!

My Article (Original Version) for the UCD Observer: "Microhoo"

This piece was originally written for the University College Dublin Observer student newspaper, a bi-weekly paper written by students for students.  This version is the one that I wrote and is not the version published (they edited slightly). Last week, Microsoft announced its plans to buy out Yahoo with a 44.6 billion dollar cash and stock buyout offer.  This represents a 61% premium over Yahoo's stock price at the time of the offer.  That premium would net Microsoft some very attractive properties including Yahoo's popular photo service, Flickr.  This seemingly random announcement comes 6 months after merger talks failed last summer but soon after both Google and Yahoo! announced improvements to their online application.  Possible explanations for the timing point to the obvious, the 800-pound gorilla in room known as Google.  However, verbiage in Microsoft's letter to Yahoo! made the move sound as though Redmond had lost patience in waiting for Yahoo to submit to their monopolistic ways.

So far, Yahoo has been able to stay independent without needing a dominant company like Microsoft to hold their hand.  But let us be honest, this takeover is all about the money - online advertising money to be precise.  Steven Ballmer, Microsoft's CEO, outlined "search and online advertising... new innovations in the areas of video, mobile services, online commerce, and social media" to be the crown jewels of the deal in his letter to Yahoo executives last week.  Indeed, Yahoo has the highest readership among websites with upwards of 500 million hits per month, an online search and advertising business second only to Google as well as number of other online communities.  Now just add the fact that you have knocked off the only competition between you and Google and you are looking at the same incentives the Microsoft execs are no doubt salivating over.

There does not seem to be much of an upside for Yahoo, unless of course you forget the 61% premium Microsoft planning to pay for Yahoo's stock.  Ballmer made sure to threaten the Yahoo management team with investor power by adding rhetoric about "reserving the right to ensure investors understand the opportunity [they] are offering.  Indeed, some analysts are predicting that if Yahoo execs do reject Microsoft's offer, large investors may apply strong pressure since they face substantial returns on their investment.  So the question stands, does Yahoo have a choice?  Well, yes - sort of.  Google has expressed objections to anti-competitive nature of the potential merger and offered to "help" Yahoo! fend off the buyout in the same breath.  Other options include finding another buyer or going private by partnering with a private equity firm.

One other option would be to outsource search and advertising to Google as they have in the past, thereby making themselves almost toxic to Microsoft.  Redmond would inevitably baulk at investing in a venture that would benefit that "significant competitor" that Ballmer talks about in his internal communications and the buyout offer itself.

At a glance, this offer seems to have come out of nowhere but in Microsoft's defense, Yahoo is a very attractive purchase.  The combined entity would become a strong rival to Google's search and ad platforms while standing to shape the face of social networking.  Some industry analysts posit that the merger would create more competition despite the Google's please of foul.  Others cheer the move amidst concerns that Yahoo does not have direction or a clear idea what their business really is.  Over the years they have dabbled in social networking, messaging, email, finance, content and news creation, and now are writing software for enterprise electronic communication solutions.  A Microhoo would probably have a clearer mission for each of the respective brands while leveraging the significant engineering talent of each company.

As of press time, Yahoo! is still sitting on the takeover offer reviewing their options to find the decision that is "best for Yahoo! and our shareholders" as  Jerry Yang, CEO and co-founder writes in an internal email.  Unfortunately for Microsoft, the longer Yahoo stalls, the farther their stock prices fall.   In contrast, Yahoo's stock price has risen enough that Redmond might be forced to make a new bid.  Only time will tell but in the interim, grab some popcorn, a Guinness, and wait with bated breath.  Hopefully we will get an outcome in the next week or so.

To Belfast and Beyond

Well hey there everyone - I'm sorry that it's been a while since I've written anything on this blog.  A lot has gone on, as you can imagine so I'm thinking that I'll break it up into a couple different posts.  This one will cover our trip to Belfast, Northern Ireland. It was an interesting trip, though not nearly what I wanted it to be.  So what did we actually do?  As I've written before, the Quinn School of Business puts on a number of great events and programs for us but this wasn't one of them.  No, this trip was a sort of add-on trip for us from the Boston University program at Dublin City University.  The few of us at UCD that went (6 of 11) were invited along on their special program as part of their Irish culture class.

I should have known this wasn't going to go well.  Originally we were told that we'd be driven up in the coach with all of them and that there'd be a short presentation and then we'd be on our own for a few (3-4) hours to explore the city.  Well, it ended up being a 1 hour presentation, followed by an hour lunch (tasty I must say), followed by 3 hours of bus touring seeing various paramilitary murals on the sides of houses or walls from back when there was such sectarian violence.  Our guide was the same guy that gave the hour powerpoint on flags and their significance to the religious fighting.

Ok, so it wasn't a total bust but it definitely wasn't what I had been hoping for.  I wanted to get to walk around downtown and see the memorials, I wanted to see the Giant's Causeway.  I had such hopes for that sort of stuff and we really didn't get a chance to get off the coach unless it was to see a couple murals all in once place.  Though, I do have to say that there was one stop where the locals came out to heckle us - including one little girl with blue hair.  But let me tell you, I never thought I'd be bothered by something here in Ireland but the 10 year old with a bottle of beer drinking in the doorway of a block house really hit me weird.  I get that it's a culture thing and that we're getting used to these new sort of cultural norms but come on!  In a country where you can legally drink at 18, what're they starting at 10 for?

Finally we parted ways with our tour guide and a few of the students that had apparently planned to stay the night in the city and we were on our way back to Dublin.  It felt like it had been a dream almost but that may have been the fact that I slept most of the way there (we had to be up at 6am... the earliest yet) and most of the way back (did I mention that we were up at 6am?).  I wish that I could have spent more time in the country because I think there's more to see and experience there than just the reminders of how recently war had gripped this otherwise developed country.

After talking with Mom and Brian, I've decided that I'm going to grab a bus north next weekend to see around with or without anyone else.  Obviously, I'll invite the rest but I'm not going to let them hold me back from seeing the country.  I really want to see the Giant's Causeway and the northern coast up there.  I've heard such amazing things.  Next post will discuss some of the coursework from this week, an Irish house party, softball, and an article I wrote for the University College Dublin Observer.  Thanks for reading!

A Beautiful Start to a Green Year

There's less than 48 hours before I am speeding across the Atlantic Ocean on my way towards what I am sure will be a VERY exciting semester studying abroad in Dublin, Ireland.  That's right, I, James Connors, will be spending roughly the next half year studying abroad in a the Emerald Isle.

Ok, James, big deal - why am I reading this?  Well, I'm going to be using this as sort of a travel journal.  I'll try to write often with personal experiences, insights, trip recaps and the like.  I plan to have this as sort of the nerve center for those people that want to keep up on me or as one friend put it "trans-atlantic stalk" me as I take part in this new and different place.  Check out the different pages linked above for more information about the blog, contact information, schedules and more!

Let me throw out some basics:

  • Day of departure - January 16, 1900hrs EST
  • Day of return - June 22 (Tentative)
  • Place of study - University College Dublin, Quinn School of Business (Belfield, Ireland)
  • Areas of study - Information Systems and Finance
  • How to contact me - go to the CONTACT page

Well, that's all for now.  I'm going to throw the contact information up so that the link works and then get on my way to bed.  Goodnight, everyone!  I hope that 2008 is shaping up for you all as well as it has been for me!!

I Started a Couple of Different Projects

It has been far too long for this blog to get updated.  It's true, weeks and months have moved past and settled without a single update, not a word.  I kept promising so many things and didn't get you anything.  I'm sorry about that everyone, I feel badly.  That all said, I want to show you a couple of the projects that I've been working on. Number 1:  SCHOOL!

Some of you know that I'm in Boston University School of Management's Cross Functional Core Curriculum program.  For those of you who don't know what this innovative program is, let me fill you in.  CORE, as it's known, is a comprehensive class sequence that integrates four different classes together as you work in a team towards building full business plan.  What constitutes an integrated program?  Well, let me put it this way: I take four classes that are in different subjects but the topics, the goals, of each class is to provide you with more information about your business plan.  Marketing, Operations Management, Finance, and Information Systems classes feed us bits of information that we must assimilate and coalesce into a complete and manageable business plan.

My team is working on a product known, right now, as the Portable Laptop Lock.  Without going into details right now, let me say that seven other teammates and I have worked countless hours designing, developing, marketing, building, and all the other applicable verbs, for this one little product that culminates in 30% of our grade.  Which is silly since we spend 80% of our time on the team project.  It's unique in that having one common thread throughout the course gives examples in real time, something solid and tangible to tie the business concepts to that we're working on.

Our product will be able to be found on our team website at http://www.hemispheresecurity.com where we'll be able to show off what it takes to be a real presence in e-commerce.

Number 2: College Tech Central

My other baby is my new podcast, College Tech Central.  But, James, what is a podcast? A podcast is very similar to a blog, sometimes called an audio blog.  I first got turned onto the idea over the summer when I was using a MacBook Pro provided by my office at ISPS.  It was so easy to play in the digital lifestyle.  Unfortunately, I didn't get out any shows before I had to turn the computer back out.  Macs make it so easy to build a podcast and produce and distribute the entire system.  Well, I finally got it up and going.  If you run over to the website you can see some of the great content that we're putting out over there.  I'm recording Information Systems lectures from Professor Shankar, with permission, as a student study resource.

Once the class winds down a bit, I'll be able to produce a more robust podcast that brings together so many more bits.  College Tech Central, Technology on Campus, is your home for technology news, tips, tricks, reviews, and secrets where we demystify computers and make it easy for students and young professionals.  Tune in sometime soon for some great content.

Well, that's all for now, everyone.  Thanks so much for surfing over and taking a look.  I hope that you bear with me as I try to get more work done and still maintain these blog posts at least on a weekly basis. Until next time, take care!

Adding Another Hat

Some of you may know that I recently accepted a new position as the Network and Web Administrator for Generations Incorporated.  If you've read this blog for long, you know also that I'm currently working desktop support for Boston University.  It's about 10:30 here in Boston and I was thinking about the transition in skills and knowledge of a job such as this.  Desktop support with Information Systems Planning and Support has been a really great experience where I've learned a great deal from the technical aspects to time management and relationship maintenance.  These are all skills that I'm able to apply to this new organization I'm working with. Unfortunately, as a student employee and the nature of the desktop support position, I have not learned much in the way of server technology.  Sure, this means that Generations Inc (GI) took a bit of a gamble with me since their prior admin was basically a brain-child genius.  On the other hand, having worked in an environment where you don't always see the whole picture or deal with users that honestly don't know what happened, I have learned the ability to troubleshoot problems.  Perhaps this, the ability to systematically find problems and resolve them in an orderly fashion, has been the greatest benefit I've gained from my work with ISPS.

Troubleshooting skills aside, I face a large learning curve when it comes to specific technology such as Windows 2003 Server, Windows Small Business Server, Terminal Services Server, and Microsoft Exchange Server 2003.  These particular OS's are my bread and butter - the daily grind if you will.  My primary tasks on a day to day basis are communicated via the task application of outlook and revolve around server maintenance and backup, desktop user support (similar to my position with ISPS), and longer term research and development projects.

I think I'll mention a couple of the projects I'm working on right now.  The first, a full inventory and audit of computer assets, users, policies, and infrastructure.  This is a rather basic concept - figure out what we have, where it is, and who uses it, then make changes as necessary.  Since we're such a small shop, it won't be difficult to get any one bit of information but to do the updates and remediation that I think will be necessary, I expect that I'll need some out of hours time.  The other big project I'm working on is to align mobile computing to our network where users with Blackberries will be able to sync with our servers or perhaps Windows Mobile devices will use the AirSync technology.  I'm still in the research phase for this project, gathering the raw numbers and information to then present to the directors in a report.

So what spurned all of this?  Well, I was bored for one.  I'm in the midst of a book that teaches the Windows 2003 Server information in a crash course sort of way.  I've been reading about installing, domain controllers, all sorts of bits about network infrastructure that I just needed a bit of a break and here I am.  In any case, I will bring this to a close.  I know I haven't been writing often but I think that my more regimented schedule will do well for my publishing cycle.

Thank you to all that continue to read and support City Streets, my professional blog and website!

Web 2.0

What is it? I think that Web 2.0 is more than just a name, more than a simple idea of sharing. No, Web 2.0 is the future of technology. Think about it - what websites have become some of the biggest money makers in the near history? Mark Zuckerberg, the 20 something founder and CEO of Facebook.com, was offered 1 billion dollars for his social networking website and now supposedly waits for a $2 Billion Offer. There's big business where people can come together and create something for almost nothing. I don't think that we should be afraid of this move though - rather I feel energized by these developments. A fellow blogger hit the nail right on the head on his personal blog. People no longer wait for mail from the postal service, nor do individuals require years of experience in order to have their part in the information super highway. I'm just a college student that enjoys sharing his perspective on the world, especially where it comes to computers and technology but that doesn't discount my contributions.

The internet has become much more than a way to post or find information; it has become a tool for everyone to use. No one is kept out, no certifications or resume required - just an interest and a dream. I hope that anyone reading these posts are enjoying the time that I spend here because I enjoy it and that's why I do this. The ability to teach, share, or even argue is a freedom I enjoy and wish to bring to everyone that wants to listen and participate.

Booo Monopoly Microsoft, Hurray Google!

Today Google announced that they would be launching capabilities to support presentations within the Google Documents & Spreadsheets service. This marks a major inroad into the world of document management and word processing. A ZDnet blog brings more details to the announcement. But what does this mean? For one, Office might not be the top dog for too much longer, in the personal computing field at least. Currently, Microsoft owns 95% of the office productivity market, most of which is dominated by the business market. Corporations are usually much slower to adopt new technologies because of their need to test, harden, and secure most applications. The other reason MS has such a large market is that it's products work well together - windows with office, office with exchange, exchange with Windows Mobile etc. Companies are going to need to branch out and take some risks if they are ever going to get out of the MS strangle hold.

There are many companies starting to test out these new technologies. Many cities and towns are starting to require that documents archive into an open source format. Massachusetts legislatures were among the first to convert to the open source formats - Hamburg, Germany is close to follow. Why are they moving? Well, open source products are earning more and more respect among the consumer and business groups. Google Apps provides an online office suite available free of charge to individuals and schools as well as a more robust premium version for enterprise. Open Office is another open source office suite - desktop based - that utilizes the now common and highly secure Open XML formats. Perhaps this is the beginning of the end of Microsoft?

True, Redmond has tried to embrace the XML wave by releasing their Office Open XML format. BUT - this isn't inter operable with other open source document programs. I, for one, feel that there needs to be more testing and proving built into the current open source productivity suites so that corporations will find more confidence in these solutions. By bringing more money and time into these technologies, the very solutions we're working to improve will develop incredibly fast.

No matter what productivity platform you choose to use, I suggest everyone look into the open source solutions because they are making up more and more ground on currently available private software (Read as MS Office Suite). Check it out - GO OPEN!!