Month: September 2007

Sep 29 2007

How To Lead Your Life

I just invested 90 minutes in watching The last public lecture of Randy Pausch.  Randy is a CMU professor who has done pioneering work in Human Computer Interaction, was a co-creator of Alice, co-founded CMU’s Entertainment Technology Center and – after watching his last lecture – is one of those amazingly inspiring and centered humans who understands what is important in life.

Other than knowing about Alice and occasionally stumbling across Randy’s work and research as I study HCI, I haven’t given Randy much thought.  A friend send me a link to the lecture and said that it was a “must watch” lecture.  As I started to watch it, I learned the backstory (from Randy – who is 47) that he had terminal pancreatic cancer and had about three to six months left of good health.  That context made the lecture even more remarkable.

Randy's last lecture posterOstensibly the lecture was about “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams.”  However, Randy often referred to the notion of “head fakes” throughout the lecture.  At the end, he revealed the first of his two head fakes – which is that the lecture is really about “How To Lead Your Life.”  To hear the other head fake, you need to watch the lecture.

About 20 of the 90 minutes was consumed by the intro and conclusion from other folks, but even this was worth it – both in the set up of the lecture and the recognition of the amazing work that Randy has done and the impact he has had on so many people.

Fantastic stuff.

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Sep 29 2007

The Plural of Anecdote is Not Data

My long time friend and first business partner Dave Jilk sent me an email with the quote of the week in it – “The Plural of Anecdote is Not Data.”  Perfect – brilliant.  After responding that it would find the light of day in a future blog post, he respondedf that he tracked the attribution down to a guy named Frank Kotsonis (a pharmacologist), apparently in The Clinical Evaluation of a Food Additive: Assessment of Aspartame of which Kotsonis was an editor.

A little time poking around on Google uncovered a much more complex attribution issue summarized in the post The Matthew Effect.  I didn’t end up with a definitive attribution, but I increased my affection for this quote.

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Sep 29 2007

VCs on WallStrip

My friends Paul Kedrosky and Fred Wilson both showed up on WallStrip interviews this week.  Lindsey interviewed Paul and got to ask about why people punch him in the face and Fred talked with Howard about the “Fuck You Phone.” 

While Bijan didn’t make WallStrip this week, he did notice that 50 students at Boulder High walked out during the pledge of allegiance this week. It was that whole “one nation, under God” thing that doesn’t really work that well in a public school, especially in the people’s republic of Boulder.  Praise to the kids for being independent and critical thinkers.

To finish off our Saturday morning “ok – I just caught up on reading my blog posts from the week” I point you to the Union Square Sessions 3: Hacking Philanthropy.  I wasn’t there, but Fred and Brad got about 45 people together to discuss how web technology can be used to hack philanthropy.  I’m anxiously awaiting the transcript.

Oh – and the Red Sox won their pennant race.  Even John Kerry seemed focused on this when I met with him in Denver with a handful of other folks yesterday to discuss the carried interest tax debate.

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Sep 27 2007

Hubris and Critical Thinking

Tom Evslin has an outstanding post up today titled Causes of Global Warming – Are We Fooled By Hubris?  Amy and I just finished watching Rome Season 2 and our conclusion is “the more things change the more they stay the same.”  Anyone feel like buying some indulgences?

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Sep 27 2007

Development Tools for the Facebook Platform

Brilliant moves by Widgetbox and Dapper (I’m not an investor in either company.)  Both of them have released “development tools for building Facebook apps.”  Widgetbox’s App Accelerator helps you turn Widgetbox widgets into Facebook apps.  Dapper’s AppMaker helps you turn “Dapps” (Dapper Apps) into Facebook apps.  Look for a lot more tools like this, but these first movers are both smart and neat.

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Sep 27 2007

Joel’s Explanation of the Excel 100000 Bug

As usual, Joel Spolsky has an excellent explanation of the Excel 100000 bug. (Thanks Rick)

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Sep 25 2007

Want Your NAC to be Laid Back?

Network access control (or NAC as the security world calls it) has become a huge technology buzzword recently. Everyone in networking and security is screaming about NAC – with Cisco and Microsoft leading the charge.

NAC is used to test computers before they are allowed on a network to make sure they’re up-to-date on patches, anti-virus, and hotfixes.  StillSecure, one of my investments, has had a lot of success with NAC because they were an early entrant and with great technology (they’ve won practically every NAC review published over the past three years.)   

This week StillSecure did something no other security vendor has been willing to do – they released a free NAC product called Safe Access Lite. Alan Shimel – StillSecure’s Chief Strategy Officer and master blogger referred to it as “Laid Back NAC.”  NAC vendors don’t usually do real evals because of changes to the network they often require, or they don’t have enough faith in their product to put it out for anyone to use!

IT Infrastructure is an area in which we’ve had a lot of investing success.  StillSecure is a company we’ve had cooking for several years and this is the year that its growth has really accelerated.  I’m exceedingly proud of the StillSecure team, their perseverance, and their innovation – both in the product and they way they approach their market. 

Now you can get your NAC either in as a “laid back” version or a full commercial “tighten down the battleship” version.

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Sep 25 2007

Master Chief In Training Shows Up At Harvard

As an MIT grad I periodically acknowledge that there was a thing referred to as a university down the river from me.  They have this statue of a dude named John Harvard in one of the yards.

John got a makeover today ala Halo 3.  Nice helmet John.

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Sep 25 2007

Excel 100000 Bug

Software has bugs.  Lots of them.  I am a master bug finder (anyone that has had me bang on their stuff likely has at least one anecdote about this.) 

Today’s “special bug” is a bug in Microsoft Excel 2007.  If you enter =850*77.1 into a cell you will get the result 100000.  Hint – that is an incorrect answer.  I tried it in Google Docs and it resulted in 65535 (the correct answer.)  Hmmm – I wonder what 2^16 is?  Boundary condition anyone?

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Sep 24 2007

Sling Media Acquired by EchoStar

Today EchoStar announced that is has acquired Sling Media for $380 million in cash.  My partner and 2007 travel buddy Ryan McIntyre is smiling tonight as he crawls into bed and reflects on another great deal on the heals of his successful investment in Postini (acquired in July by Google for $625 million.)  I’d recommend that he snuggle up to a Slingbox, but I’ll restrain myself.

Ryan has written a nice essay on the story of his experience with Sling Media.  The Sling team – led by Blake Krikorian – has created a great company and a superb set of products.  I knew I was in love when I turned over my first Slingbox and noticed a little sticker with the phrase “Lebowski” on it.  Sling packed an incredible amount of innovative software (and a tiny bit of hardware) into a plastic box that was mostly filled with air.  The magic was in the software (dynamic video-stream-optimization technology called Lebowski) which reinforced our view that “it’s all about the software.”

Guys – awesome job.  EchoStar – you guys just made a really smart purchase.

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