Evaluating TabletPC screens

Thursday, March 31st, 2005
In my pursuit of the perfect tablet PC for my needs, I've collected many documents and links to useful TabletPC information. Here are two documents and a link that may be of interest to those of you who may be evaluating TabletPC technology:

In response to my updated post about indoor/outdoor screens, Tom Bernhard, Fujitsu's Director of Strategic Product Planning, was kind enough to send me a document that covers the technology issues involved in designing and selecting TabletPC displays. It probably contains more information than most people would like to know, however  the document also contains some helpful summaries and illustrations. Earlier this week, I wrote to Tom to request permission to share the document. I've since learned that the document has just been posted to the web -- see below.

After reading this document, I have decided to go with the indoor wide angle SXGA+ screen for my TabletPC purchase. I believe that this will work best for my needs. Most of my work is done indoors and the wide angle viewing should make client demonstrations easier.

Another helpful document, also from Fujitsu, is the Fujitsu Mobile Whitepaper. Although a bit dated - it's from 2002 -- this document provides Fujitsu's response to Microsoft's TabletPC specification. While clearly written from the Fujitsu perspective, it has some good information and should be of benefit to anyone considering a TabletPC purchase.

Related documents: The TabletPC2 web site has an excellent field-trial comparison of TabletPC displays. Linda Epstein's done a fantastic job of comparing the screens and features of various TabletPC models.

I've still yet to order my new TabletPC. Unfortunately, there is no single SKU for my dream system. I know what I want, however, since it must be "custom configured," I'll need to sit down and map out all the options before I can submit my order.  While I have the flexibility to choose what I want, it means that I cannot just quickly call and order a new TabletPC overnight. That's too bad - I could have sold 3 TabletPCs to clients in the just the past week.

Hopefully, tomorrow will be a quiet day and I can get this order going. Then, the countdown will really begin.

Three great MindManager blogs

Monday, March 28th, 2005
If you want to learn more about the many things that you can do with MindManager, my favorite visual mapping tool, be sure to add these three people to your RSS reader.

Mike Jetter - MindJet's CTO
Hobie Swan - has a terrific  post about using MindManager on the TabletPC
Nick Duffill - Co-author of ResultsManager add-in for MindManager

TabletPC Pursuit

Monday, March 28th, 2005
I have finally decided which TabletPC to buy. I plan to purchase the new Fujitsu T4010D - if I can get one soon. Many factors contributed to my selection of the Fujitsu model, including the screen, battery, optical options, and a handful of other innovative product features.

As a result of my blog posts, many people thoughtfully contacted me to share their personal experiences and to provide objective information to help me in my evaluation of the various TabletPC models from Toshiba and Fujitsu. Among these, were executives at Toshiba and Fujitsu, along with Marc Orchant, Lora Heiny, and Linda A. Epstein, creator of TABLETPC2.COM. (TabletPC2 is an outstanding resource for TabletPC comparisons.)  Thank you to each of you!

As you may know, when I researched the Fujitsu models, I became frustrated by the need to choose between the indoor or outdoor screen models. On Friday, an executive at Fujitsu sent me a detailed engineering document that reviews the engineering design process for TabletPC screens and how each design is more or less suitable for indoor or outdoor use. Equipped with a much better understanding of the technical details, I'm now confident that the wide-view indoor screen will serve my needs best. (I've written to ask for permission to post this document. Check back soon)  

With the knowledge of the specific TabletPC I want and the features that I will include, the remaining hurdle is how to get one.

It is still frustrating to me that I cannot go to my local computer super store and pick up a TabletPC or at least order one overnight from an internet dealer. Unfortunately, the combination of "features" that I have selected require that my TabletPC be "built-to-order." While I'm flattered that Fujitsu or Toshiba would build a TabletPC just for me, I still wish it were possible to purchase what I want from stock. Why should people have to go through all of this work? (Now that I've done the work, perhaps they should offer the "Eric Mack Edition." Hmmm. If Eddie Bauer can do it.... and he probably makes big bucks each time his name is used, too.  I'll have to think about that.)

If I am successful in ordering my new TabletPC for delivery in the next two weeks, this will be the last post on the ordering saga.

Moving forward, I plan to share my experiences integrating the TabletPC into my work and play.

I can't wait for my new TabletPC. Oh, I guess I'll have to. At least a few weeks more. :-(

Given For You

Saturday, March 26th, 2005
This weekend, hundreds of millions of people around the world will celebrate Easter: the crucifixion, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Why on earth would anyone "celebrate" these four events - isn't that morbid, even a little politically incorrect? Why not just celebrate the fact that someone, who was once dead, is now alive? Isn't that good enough? I believe that to do so would be to miss the whole point of Passion Week.

Beyond the simple historical facts surrounding the life of Jesus is a story of even greater significance. It is the story of a relationship between God and us  - you and me. In our busy world, it is too easy to become distracted with current events, activities, news, and yes, even blogs, and miss out on this most important relationship.

- Given For You

For the past three nights this week, our church presented a special Passion Week service, entitled, "Given For You." The details found on the pages of Scripture were presented with drama, music and vocals by our church drama team, orchestra and choir. This was the first time I have attended this type of presentation without singing in the choir. I sat in the balcony with my family. It was a powerful and moving experience.

The the story of Easter is love story about a relationship, a most valuable one, a personal one. It is also a story of extreme sacrifice. If you are unfamiliar with the details, now would be an excellent time to learn more.

For those of you who already understand the significance of Easter, we have much to celebrate.

Much indeed.

Who’s on your A-List?

Friday, March 25th, 2005
Jeremy and Marc recently blogged about their A-Lists - people they look up to in the blogosphere. Since my name came up, I guess it's my turn to continue the trend.

Here's my current A-List:

- My sweetheart; the love of my life; she will forever be at the top of my A-List. (Sorry, unlisted blog.)

Tanny O'Haley  - Tanny's been a brother to me for the 20+ years that we've known one another. We've collaborated professionally at many companies and we've pioneered innovative software together. Tanny's a great dad to his children and he's been a real encouragement to me. This summer, my daughter, Kelly, and I were honored to be a part of his wedding. Tanny was instrumental in helping me get my blogs set up a few years ago, and he and I continue to look for new ways to make and break technology. I'm honored to count Tanny as a friend. Tanny's blog, like mine, is an eclectic collection of posts. He's also awesome when it comes to style and design.

Michael Sampson - I first met Michael in 1997. Michael was a panelist in a session I moderated on Unified Messaging for the Electronic Messaging Association. (Wouldn't it be fun to go back and listen to that tape?) Little did we know that our shared interest in collaborative technologies would lead us to develop a strong professional and personal relationship. We have other interests in common, too. Michael and his wife, Katrina, also homeschool their wonderful children; six of them. They are a lovely family. This summer, Michael will fly up from New Zealand so that we can spend a day in the digital sandbox. Michael's blog on collaborative technology, Shared-spaces, is my favorite way to keep up with news and analysis in the field of collaboration. It's among the first I read each day.

David Allen - Friend, client, mentor. David's a neat guy and an overall fun person to hang out with. Like me, David loves cool gear, gadgets, and technology -- anything with wires a lots of flashing LEDs. When we get together, we are never at a loss for things to talk about. As David's technologist, I have the delightful opportunity to share my expertise and passion about using technology with a guy that loves to help others. David's assembled a neat team, and I'm honored to be among such good company. Though he doesn't blog often, (I'm working on that) I always look forward to reading what he has to say.

Jason Womack - To say that Jason is energetic would be an understatement. I first met Jason, through my work with David, and we hit it off right away. Each time we get together, amazing things happen. I can always count on Jason to ask me hard questions, such as "as a result of what you learned least year, what will you do differently now?" We like tech, GTD, and mapping out extraordinary visions for the future. Jason's become a prolific blogger, too; I really like the way that he integrates his work into his life -- or is it the other way around? In any case, another must-read.

Marc Orchant - I met Marc through his Office Zealot GTD blog site. We've had many late-night discussions on technology and how to put it into perspective. I'm in awe of Marc's communication skills. No wonder he has the [well-deserved] title of chief story-teller at his work. Lately, Marc's been providing me with validation for all the reasons that I have decided I must have a TabletPC. With Marc's help, I have hopes of becoming YABHTU soon.  Marc's blog, and now his podcast are on my daily list.

Buzz Bruggeman - What can I say? A day without Buzz is like a day without a good internet connection. Yes, that's it. Perhaps we should call Buzz, Mr Internet. In any case, I'm thankful for the conversations I've had with Buzz, each one yielding at least 180 new contacts. OK, at least 3. We'll talk about that soon, on a podcast. I think there are probably only a handful of people left in the world, who do not use Buzz' product, ActiveWords. Shame, shame. Perhaps I should list them by name on my D-List, just so that they will call Buzz and order. :-)

Nick Duffill - I met Nick as a result of some research to see just how well his product, ResultsManager mapped into GTD. That encounter led to a delightful acquaintance and many extended conversations. Nick's been blogging for just a few months. His blog, Beyond Crayons, is short on posts but long on quality of content. Nick and his business partner, Nik, were sponsors of our Children's robotics team this year, too. I look forward to having the guys from Gyronix on a future podcast.

Michael Hyatt - I've only exchanged a few emails with Michael, so I really only know him mostly through his blog. Oops, not true. Before the turn of the century, I used both of Michael's Y2K-related books as part of a preparedness presentation that I put together for my church. (Turn of the century; wow; I feel old.)  Michael's raised 5 daughters, so it must be possible. An inspiration. Thomas Nelson Publishers, Michael's company, publishes many of the books in my library and now he's pushing the envelope in the area of corporate blogging. A definite bookmark. Like David, Michael doesn't blog often; when he does, I schedule the time to read what he has written. Michael is also one of the inspirations for my move to the TabletPC. Hey Michael, here's an open invitation to come over and spend a day in the digital sandbox.

And my honorary A-list. Although they do not blog, they remain an inspiration to me.

Bill Gates
- I remember attending NCC in the early 80's. There you were, in your classic [geek] sweater, sharing your vision for the future of computing. I also remember the detractors -- people who thought that the things you predicted would never come to pass. Thank you, Bill, for sticking to your vision and proving them all wrong. You've changed our world. I admire you for what you have accomplished. Though I've never met you in person, I have enjoyed being alive in the era of personal computing and I look forward to telling my grandchildren ... "I was there when Bill Gates said ..."  You are welcome to come over to the digital sandbox anytime you want. Bring the kids.

Commodore Grace Hopper
- As the mother of modern computing and the first tech evangelist, you remain an inspiration to me. I still miss the elegance of COBOL and how much of an improvement it was to program in common English - even on Hollerith cards. I remember your speeches, your story about the first computer bug, and time I met you in Washington D.C.. I know that if you were alive today, you would be blogging now as prolifically as you spoke then. I still have the nanosecond that you gave me over 20 years ago. It hangs on the wall in my office.  (I plan to blog more about Grace Hopper in the future. Meanwhile, here's an excellent biography of Grace Hopper, by Marianne McKenzie.)

Who's on your A-list?

Day 8. Still no TabletPC

Thursday, March 24th, 2005
Why can't buying a TabletPC be a quick and easy experience?

A week ago, I shared my frustrating and unsuccessful attempt to quickly purchase a high-end M200 TabletPC from Toshiba. My post about my desire to become YABHTU, created quite a stir in the blogosphere. James Kendrick and Marc Orchant even talked this, on today's Tablet PC podcast.

Here's an update on my mission to show my clients how to use digital ink ...

Today, I received an email from Paul Vollenweider, Vice President of Toshiba Direct. Mr. Vollenweider apologized for the difficulties I encountered and he outlined how the purchasing process is supposed to work. He also extended an offer to assist me. I really appreciate that he took the time to personally address my concerns and to explain how the purchasing process works. While I still don't quite know how long it might  take to get the TabletPC I want, I'm delighted to know that Mr. Vollenweider is genuinely concerned about the purchasing experience of his customers. Very professional. Had this happened a week ago, I would now own an M200, I would be well on my way to becoming YABHTU, and this post would be about how everyone should buy a TabletPC. Well, I'm not there yet. I've followed up with Mr. Vollenweider; right now, however, I must decide what to do with Fujitsu.

Wait a minute? Wasn't I trying to buy a Toshiba?  Yes, I was, and had it been available for purchase, I would have.  Since it was not, I decided to start over and research alternatives.  About the same time, Fujitsu announced their new T4010D TabletPC. With the introduction of this new model, Fujitsu is back in the running for my dream TabletPC. Previously excluded by the lack of an SXGA screen, Fujitsu got my attention by offering a TabletPC with not only an SXGA+ screen, but also standard Bluetooth and abg wireless -- two of the features unavailable from Toshiba M200 in a pre-built configuration. But wait, there's more. The high-end pre-built Fujitsu Tablet also includes a multi-format DVD burner, and a wide angle indoor/outdoor screen, Firewire ports, and Gigabit ethernet as well. Sweet. My corporate clients will love this.

I'm ready to buy  ...

As I did when I planned to purchase the Toshiba M200 TabletPC, I spec'd out my dream TabletPC, this time, from Fujitsu.  OK, I'm ready to buy; where do I send my money, and how soon can I have it?  I start by filling out an order on the Fujitsu web site. Wait a minute. What's this? According to the Fujitsu web store, my dream TabletPC - the one with the wonderful indoor/outdoor screen that I want - only comes in XGA. What? XGA only? Why can't I have the SXGA+ screen with the indoor/outdoor coating applied? Wouldn't everyone want the ideal TabletPC -- one that can be used indoors as well as outdoors? Certainly, I'm not the only one interested in this capability. Why do these features have to be mutually exclusive, especially when I'm willing to pay for them?

I guess I'll have to do some more research. This will further delay my purchase.

Why can't buying a TabletPC be a quick and easy experience?

Update 3:52 AM PST
- I just called 1-800-FUJITSU and spoke with Kim and then Brent. Both were VERY knowledgeable about their product and enthusiastic about their company - especially for people working the midnight shift. I got quick answers to most of my questions. The T4010D that I want will have to be custom configured, and the fastest drive available is a 5400 RPM drive, (no mention of throughput). Unfortunately, the SXGA+ screen option is only available as an indoor screen. That's too bad. The only way I can get an indoor/outdoor screen is to downgrade to XGA. Finally, the Multi-format DVD drive is not a dual-layer as one product review I read had indicated. It still looks like a good drive. All custom configured units come directly from Japan, so I will need to allow 7-10 business days + 2-3 days for shipping. I realize that there is no such thing as instant gratification (at any price) for the ultimate TabletPC. I'm disappointed that I cannot have the indoor/outdoor screen in SGXA+. I left my name, phone number, and email address; I asked for a product manager to contact me. Perhaps, when I wake up, I'll have some additional information in my mailbox to share.

Update 4:19 AM PST
-  I can be very vocal about what I want in technology and how I think things should be. I want to make sure that I share that despite my frustration with the process of selecting and purchasing this TabletPC, my interactions with both Toshiba and Fujitsu have been very professional. It's neat to deal with people who obviously care about their product. Now, if they would only contact me first about their configurations and proposed feature sets ...  Good night.

Three reasons I use Skype

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2005
If you've called my office before, chances are you've communicated with me when I was using my portable VOIP system.

I've been using VOIP Technology to communicate with my staff and clients for close to a decade, but it always meant using costly H.323 endpoints, or unpredictable software. That's all changed. I've ditched my mobile voice kit. Why? Skype.  Skype is transforming the way I communicate with others over the internet. Download it, install it, and it works. It works.  Oh, it's also free.

This evening, I enjoyed a Skype conference call with Marc Orchant, in New Mexico, and Michael Sampson, in New Zealand. If you listened to my recent podcast from the digital sandbox, then you heard David and me use Skype to drop in on Marc on our geek day. Amazing, isn't it?

Skype boosts my productivity in three ways:

  • I can see when my contacts are on-line -- presence awareness
  • I can chat instantly with my contacts
  • I can instantly talk with one or more of my contacts

In short. It is now easier for me to communicate with people and for them to communicate with me. The barriers have been lowered.

My VOIP address has been on my business card for years. In that time, only a handful of people have had the tools (or ability) to successfully call me via phone.ica.com. Now, with Skype, anyone can.

Alright, I'm beginning to sound like a commercial for Skype. Skype Skype Skype. I can't help it.

If you'd like to say hello, my Skype address is eProductivityGuy.

Mobile podcast cart

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2005
I'm becoming more comfortable with the gear that I will be using for my podcasts. Two weeks ago, I put together a mobile podcast rig for my think station. It's basically a small oak cart on wheels with my Skype PC, mixer, headphone amp, and my digital audio transfer device. Below, I store cables, microphones and the headphones that my guest and I will use during the podcast.  

Eric's current
mobile podcast cart

I had a few opportunities to test this rig last week. We actually recorded several podcasts, however, I plan to hold onto some of them until I launch the new eProductivity.NET web site. (When will that happen? Real soon now.)

My current project is to streamline the process and technology that I will include in my mobile podcast kit so that I can capture, record, and produce from anywhere.  I'm still working out the settings for capture and encoding as well as the virtual audio circuits needed to make this happen in a compact and reliable way. I will continue to post the results of these experiments along the way. A big thank you to those of you, who have already responded with feedback.

As for the podcasts, I've already accumulated a list of people that I would like to interview, and I'm working on a format that will allow me to put these out quickly. It's been a lot of fun and I have met some wonderful people along the way.

If you know of someone you would like me to interview let me know.

Why not buy a Fujitsu TabletPC?

Saturday, March 19th, 2005
Well, since I cannot have the Toshiba M200 TabletPC that I want anytime soon, I'm now considering the Fujitsu T4010D TabletPC.

What it would take to make me
  • Convertible format
  • High screen resolution  (I 'd like to have 1400x1050)
  • Fast processor, Low power mode (Intel Dothan?)
  • Fast video for document management/imaging/demos
  • Excellent support for simultaneous external monitor
  • Very fast hard drive, 60 gigabytes minimum
  • 1-2 gigabytes of RAM
  • Wireless 802.11 abg, Bluetooth, USB 2.0, LAN, Modem, Dock
  • Reliable hardware; excellent service available, when needed.
  • Excellent TabletPC OS driver and utility support
Possible advantages of Fujitsu over Toshiba TabletPC:
  • Internal Dual-layer DVD-RW Drive
  • Option for second battery pack. (trade-off of weight vs battery)
  • Option to have nothing in the drive bay to lighten things up.
  • Optional indoor/outdoor wide view screen (XGA model only)        
  • FireWire support
  • Free scanner, free shipping, I can have it soon. :-)
Possible disadvantages of going with the Fujitsu TabletPC:
  • The Fujitsu weighs 22.75 lbs.  (OK, Just Kidding)
  • Slower hard drive, no high-speed option.
  • I'm not sure if shared-memory video card is better than the M200
  • Dual mic array vs triple mic array
  • I still have to wait 10 days from order. :-(
Am I missing anything?

UPDATE 1: Marc and James, over at the the Tablet PC show, just posted a link to this review. Perhaps they will have more to say on their next show.

UPDATE 2: I just spent an hour reviewing posts on the T4010D at Tablet PC buzz. Looks like I need to choose between XGA wide angle indoor/outdoor vs SXGA plain vanilla. It seems like the wide angle would be important when writing with the Tablet on a desktop. Likewise, in brightly lit rooms, the indoor/outdoor option might be the way to go. Ahh choices, choices. Why can't I have it all?

The adventure continues, one year later

Thursday, March 17th, 2005
Just one year ago, today, my friend, David Allen, welcomed us into his salon. I suppose I'm partly to blame for that. What a launch! It wasn't planned, the launch that is; we have Scoble and Buzz to thank for that. You can read about what happened, here.

David's been using the web to converse for years, however, a year ago, he suddenly jumped to a new level. Hundreds of thousands of page visits and millions of RSS hits later, the adventure continues.

Happy one year blog-anniversary, David!

Not YABHTU Update #1

Thursday, March 17th, 2005
An interesting day on the blog. Last night's late-night cranky blog-rant about my inability to satisfy my need/desire for a TabletPC generated considerable feedback, both public and private. (Thank you!) Most encouraging was an email from Lora Heiny, of Microsoft's Mobile Platforms Division. Lora offered some assistance. She also provided me with some valuable insight on the differences and similarities between the Toshiba and Fujitsu TabletPcs.

While I would still like to buy a Toshiba TabletPC - if I could only get the one I want - I'm now considering the Fujitsu as an alternative.

I'll keep you posted.

Sorry Toshiba, I’m not YABHTU

Thursday, March 17th, 2005
I suddenly need a new computer ... yesterday.  No problem, I thought; I know precisely what I want -- A shiny new Toshiba M200, fully loaded.  I've been thinking about purchasing this wonderful TabletPC for months. I wanted to use it to show clients the latest in pen-enabled applications - impressive programs like MindManager, ResultsManager, and OneNote. Several months ago, my friend, Marc Orchant, of the tabletpcweblog even helped me spec out the system. I thought that all I had left do was to click and order to become YABHTU. (Yet Another Blissfully Happy TabletPC User)  

Not true.

This morning, I called Toshiba Direct to place my order. I wanted to buy an M200 for immediate delivery. I was prepared to pay FedEx overnight fees to get it quickly.  

You can imagine my surprise, therefore, when the very friendly and English-speaking representative at Toshiba Direct quoted me three to four weeks for custom configured M200 TabletPCs.

Three to four weeks to prep a TabletPC? What are they Thinking?

It's not like this unit was just introduced. Now, to be fair, the helpful lady on the phone did offer that I could purchase a "preconfigured" model, that could be shipped much faster. I asked about the preconfigured models and found that they strip built-in Bluetooth (??), built-in a/b/g WiFi (??) and the higher-speed hard drive (??) -- all features I wanted, and was prepared to pay for.

I wonder, how unique am I for wanting an M200 with built-in WiFi, Bluetooth, and a fast 60 Gig 7200 RPM drive? Surely I'm not the only one.

Someone in Toshiba marketing does not get it.

Even if they did, how long does it take to pop in a hard drive and two mini-pci cards? 10 minutes? Offer to send me the parts, Toshiba, and I'll do it for you.  If I have to wait 3-4 weeks before the unit I want might even be ready to ship, I might as well wait for the new T4000 Convertible Tablet, by Fujitsu, announced only yesterday.

IBM gets it; they include fully loaded models among their standard ThinkPad configurations so that customers can quickly satisfy their desires (or needs).  And, they're in-stock!. Too bad IBM does not make a TabletPC.
As long as vendors, like Toshiba, prevent me from making an impulse TabletPC purchase whenever I want to (or, as in this case, suddenly need to), they will miss many sales opportunities.
This affects not only me, but my clients, too.

I really wanted this new TabletPC, too. I've been sold on it by Marc Orchant, Michael Hyatt, and Robert Scoble, to name a few. I guess I won't be joining the Toshiba TabletPC customer evangelist club; at least not anytime soon.

Because I need to buy a new laptop quickly, I may have to fulfill my mobile computing needs with another wonderful IBM ThinkPad. I really like the T-42p. That would not be a bad thing at all; but it would not be a TabletPC.  (IBM does not appear to get the TabletPC platform yet, but that's another blog for another day.)

End of rant; it's 2:29 am; time to go to bed.

Sorry for whining; I get a little cranky when the marvels of technology cannot work together to help me purchase what I want in a timely fashion.

I still wish I could get a new Toshiba M200 Tablet PC quickly.

PS. The last time I publicly complained about not being able to easily purchase new computers, the Sr. Manager for IBM North & South American portable computing personally called me to see if she could help. As a result, I immediately placed orders for 15 new top-of-the-line ThinkPads for one of my clients. My client was satisfied, and so was I. I wonder if the executives on the Toshiba TabletPC team read blogs?  I hope they do.  If so, my phone # is 661-242-8410x101.

* If you know this person, Send them a link to this blog.

UPDATE 3/17/2005 12:17 PM PST
-- I just spoke with Gord, a friendly sales rep over at Fujtisu. It looks like the Fujitsu Lifebook T4000 (Model T40910D) TabletPC has most everything I want, except for the fast hard drive (why do they do that??). They do provide a drive bay with Gigabit Ethernet and a DVD burner. I'd like that.  They quoted me one week to build and ship, plus free shipping, plus a free scanner; and, I did not even mention this blog.  Now, I just have to do some more research on the Fujitsu T4000.  Has anyone worked with this TabletPC yet? Thoughts?

Losing hair for a good cause

Tuesday, March 15th, 2005
This past week, our seven year old, Emily, did something remarkable.  She cut off her hair to donate to Locks of Love, an organization that makes hairpieces for children who have lost their own hair due to cancer and other illnesses.

Emily's beautiful
snip, off they comeEmily with the locks she will donate

Emily set this goal for herself about 18 months ago, and took good care of her hair until it was long enough to donate.   Each time Mommy brushed out the tangles we reminded ourselves that someone was going to enjoy having her beautiful hair.

It is no secret that Kathy and I are truly proud of our four daughters, and we take great joy in the delightful young ladies they are becoming.

Happy birthday, Michael

Tuesday, March 15th, 2005
Wishing you the best on this special day.


David Allen joins me in the digital sandbox

Saturday, March 12th, 2005
After several attempts, David Allen and I finally got together to play in my digital sandbox and enjoy a good meal. We had a great time and we got to play with all kinds of cool technology, too.  David and I have been talking a lot about podcasting lately, so I invited him to help me test my new podcast rig. We recorded several segments, which I will share over on eProductivity.NET in the weeks to come.

Marc Orchant was the first to respond to my invitation to join us in the sandbox, so we decided to drop in on him via Skype, just to chat ...

from the digital sandbox

You're welcome to listen along, as David and I get our digital feet wet in this, our first of several podcasts together.

Eric Mack & David Allen in the digital sandbox

Eric Mack On-line - March 12, 2005 (23 min 29 sec) MP3  5.5 MB


00:00        Introduction & welcome to the digital sandbox
01:24        Eric & David make a drop in on Marc Orchant via Skype
03:57        Marc tells us about the Workforce Education Alliance
06:18        Articulated curriculum for a career in IT
08:02        David's vision for GTD in  education
11:02        GTD check-in
13:39        Embedding GTD into the corporate culture
19:04        The hallmark  of a GTD blackbelt - can you train yourself?
20:11        Wrap-up

Throughout the day, we received several e-mails and Skype requests to chat. Unfortunately, we were unable to connect with everyone who tried to reach us; perhaps we'll try again, soon. (You'll want to add my RSS feed to your RSS Reader and your podcast client.)

If you would like to be on a future podcast, drop me a line, using the "contact" link above.

Robotics team thanks 2004 sponsors

Saturday, March 12th, 2005
On behalf of the their  U.S. FIRST Jr. Robotics Team, Amy and Wendy had the opportunity to present their final sponsor appreciation plaque to one of their sponsors, David Allen of the David Allen Company. David's been a long-time champion of my volunteer work, teaching children critical thinking skills using robotics. I believe that the GTD methodology played a big part in the team's success this year.

David, and Amy and their 2004 robot.

LEGO Mountaineers Team blog site

Look who’s on the plaid couch

Friday, March 11th, 2005
My friend, David Allen, drove up for a Geek Day -- a chance to hang out and talk about anything that shows up, eat good food, and play with cool gear. It's a rare opportunity for two boys to play in the digital sandbox.

Eric and David on the plaid couch

We thought it might be fun to do a podcast and perhaps even connect with a few folks we've met along the way. I'll be up on Skype; you can send me an email if you would like to connect.

Stay tuned.
Yesterday, Microsoft suddenly announced its acquisition of Groove Networks, and that Groove CEO Ray Ozzie will become one of the three CTOs at Microsoft, specifically charged with championing Microsoft's collaboration strategy. I say suddenly because, just two days before, Microsoft made public its collaboration strategy with Office Communications server 2005, and Office Live Communications Server 2005. No mention of Groove then. Why now?

We will certainly learn more about this in the days and months to come. While I am delighted to see increased competition and energy in the collaborative space, I'm not sure this is such a good move for Groove, Microsoft, or their customers. At a minimum, it seems that once again, Microsoft has introduced a new uncertainty to their collaboration strategy mix, something that IT managers will have to wrestle with as they plan for the future.

Michael Sampson, research director at Shared Spaces Research & Consulting attended yesterday's briefing with Bill Gates, Jeff Raikes, and Ray Ozzie; he's put up an informative and thought-provoking post on his site.

In an upcoming podcast, Michael and I will discuss this announcement and what we think it means.

Podcast test 1

Wednesday, March 9th, 2005
I've been working with Steve Castledine over at ProjectDX to add full podcast support to DominoBlog, my web content and blogging tool of choice. Soon, I will have the ability to quickly add a podcast to any blog entry and have the proper enclosures automatically appear in my RSS feed.

My objective is to streamline my podcast encoding and content delivery process so that I can audiocast and videocast on a regular basis about various topics of interest.

This 28 second podcast test is the first part of that development process.

Eric Mack On-line Podcast test #1

Introduction and podcast test of podcast enclosure tags in RSS.
Format: MP3 Size: 356KB  Duration: 0 minutes, 28 seconds

For those of you, who maybe inclined to help me with the test today, please add my RSS feed to your podcatcher software.

Did your podcatcher software automatically download my podcast for you?
 (i.e. iPodder, Doppler, or others)

The podcast enclosure support is still in development, but I am hopeful that Steve will have it fully operational by tomorrow.

Thank you for your patience as we iron out the wrinkles in this process.

Comments and suggestions welcome.

Will the Pope Podcast?

Saturday, March 5th, 2005
Father Roderick Vonhögen hopes so and he's sharing his journey to meet the Pope and convince him to Podcast. The Podcasts narrate his journey, including confrontations with Vatican security, unexpected trips to the hospital where the Pope was hospitalized, and now, his discussions with Vatican Radio to show them how to Podcast - all in the space of less than 2 weeks!  Amazing.  

For the past few weeks, I've been listening to the stream of Podcasts coming from the Vatican city, as this high-tech priest shares his journey to meet the Pope and present the first Papal Podcast. I won't summarize the Podcasts here, because I do not want to spoil it for you. There are amazing and unexpected twists in the Podcasts as the events unfold. I will tell you that the Vatican is now involved and that the new few Podcasts should be even more interesting - more than you might expect.

What I find most interesting and compelling about these Podcasts is the use of descriptive narratives and soundscapes to pull the listener into the experience. Hearing the feet walking across the cobblestone streets, the water splashing in the piazza, the crowds waiting to see the Pope, or the dripping water deep inside the catacombs under the city.  Vonhögen brings a sense of realism and wonder as well as the certain charm and suspense that could previously only be found in a classic old-time radio broadcast.  Yet, all of this is being produced by one guy, one mic, and a minidisc recorder.

These Podcasts are not produced by the Vatican, but by Father Roderick Vonhögen. Vonhögen's set up his blog site, Catholic Insider, with the mission "Podcasting from the heart of the Roman Catholic Church." The content is not focused as much on those of the Catholic faith as it as on giving the ordinary person a glimpse inside this priest's world.

Althought, I'm not a Catholic, I have appreciated being able to "listen" in on the adventures of Father Roderick  as he uses his mobile Podcast setup to bring soundscapes from the Vatican city.

Best of success to you, Father Vonhögen!

If you are going to listen, I recommend that you listen to the Podcasts in sequence. Here are the current links as of this morning:

Catholic Insider February 23, 2005

Catholic Insider February 24, 2005

Catholic Insider February 25, 2005

Catholic Insider February 26, 2005

Catholic Insider February 27, 2005

Catholic Insider March 1, 2005

Catholic Insider March 2, 2005

You can subscribe to the Podcasts with this link: http://feeds.feedburner.com/catholicinsider

X1 grants a wish

Friday, March 4th, 2005
I routinely use two tools for knowledge management: Lotus Notes and Mind Manager. I have long wished for a single integrated solution to search desktop documents, Notes databases, and MindManager maps. Well, it looks like at least one of these wishes will be granted soon.

The makers of the X1 Desktop search tool are preparing to add support for Lotus Notes databases. For the past week, I have been evaluating a beta release (I'm using ver. 5.1 Beta Rel 2, Build 1616zq) of the next generation of the X1 desktop search tool.  I'm really excited about the ability to use a single search tool to search Lotus Notes databases in addition to the documents on my local disk drive.  Right now, the search functionality is limited to mail databases, but I'm told that there are plans to add support for any Notes database. When that happens, it will represent a significant productivity boost for users of Lotus Notes.

Image:X1 grants a wish

One of the strong features of X1 is their support for a variety of document types; they have extended this functionality to searching text information stored within Notes as well.  So far, my testing has gone reasonably well; well enough to continue working with the product. Currently, there is no indication in the returned search results display which database the result came from, however, the basic mail folders are shown.

I would really like to see support for multiple databases
-- at least email, discussion, and doclib. I've worked out a way that this could be done. Hopefully, they have, too.

All in all, it's been a good experience so far and I plan to continue working with the product as it matures.

And my other wishes?  I've spoken with one of the representatives from X1 who assured me that he would post a link to my wishes on the X1 forum.

We'll see what happens.

If you are unfamiliar with X1, I recommend that you check out Marc Orchant's reviews of the product. Posted with permission from the folks at X1.
Should we really use the delegated task feature to delegate actions to others?

While many people are usually excited to learn that their action management system will allow them to delegate actions to someone else, I find that many who have actually worked with such a system do not often share the same enthusiasm.

I usually recommend that my clients avoid using the task delegation feature of their action management system-- at least until I can confirm that everyone is on the same page in terms of how they will use it.
In order for delegated tasks to work, a high level of trust and an "action delegation protocol" must exist between all parties.
The person doing the delegating needs to trust that when he delegates something to another, it will be seen and actually treated as an action by the assignee. Likewise, the person who receives the delegated action must have a way to become aware of, internalize, and "accept" the action as their own. Successful delegation requires trust and commitment. If either is not present (as is often the case) then delegated tasks won't work.

This is not a new problem, it's as old as paper, at least. Technology has just made it easier to quickly dispatch a barrage of computer-delegated actions to unsuspecting (and possibly unwilling) people.

Delegated tasks create a situation in which the technology of productivity is likely to clash with the methodology of productivity.

The technology allows for tasks to be created and assigned to other individuals; however, without a sound methodology  and clear agreement on how these will be processed, (the action delegation protocol), it can quickly become a recipe for lost or missed actions, frustration, and incompletion.
I recommend that my clients use David Allen's GTD methodology. In of my years of consulting on technology, I've not found a better system for thinking about your work than GTD. In his book, Getting Things Done, David emphasizes the importance of accountability in all aspects of delegating and accepting actions; he also makes it clear that the system used to track actions - be it paper or digital - must be absolutely leak-proof. These are two areas where delegated actions, if not used properly, can fall apart as a tool for organizational action management.

Microsoft Outlook, Lotus Notes, and even my eProductivity software all allow for tasks to be delegated to others simply by selecting the assignee from a directory. The beauty of this - at least from the perspective of the one doing the delegating - is that it is easy to create a project and then delegate actions to others.

One of my first action management systems, which I designed for the US Navy, did just this. The manager could initiate a project and then define and delegate specific actions to others in succession. Next actions could be queued so that as one action was completed the next would be delegated out in sequence. The system was a success, but I suspect that a large measure of this success was because the actions were effectively "orders" on the part of the manager and it was clearly understood that they were to be followed as assigned. The trust and protocol that I mentioned earlier were part of the environment. In a closed-system, with a clear chain of command, action management can, and indeed in some cases must work this way. That was almost 20 years ago. Today, a person is as likely to collaborate with someone in their own office as they are with someone  around the world. The relationship is less likely to be superior/subordinate, as with my Navy client, and more likely to be peer to peer. In this situation trust and protocol are essential.

The benefits of a delegated-tasks system can be significant. For the one doing the delegating, as tasks are entered into the system, they can delegate an action to someone else simply by indicating their name in the "assigned to" field. They can also can provide optional information such as a due date, status and alert notification request.

Outlook task delegation fields:


Lotus Notes task delegation fields:



For the assignee, they do not have to enter anything into their action tracking system - it's all done for them. Depending upon how their system is configured, they may have the ability to accept or reject assigned tasks first or the new tasks may simply appear on their to do list. Both Microsoft Outlook and Lotus Notes will display a list of delegated tasks, the responsible party, due date, and status.  For these reasons it is often quite tempting to use delegated tasks in the hopes of having a system of "total control and accountability."

Key things to consider when using delegated tasks:

1. Discuss delegated actions with your collaboration partners:

Will you use computer-delegated tasks at all? Will you allow others to add actions directly to your action support lists (risky) or will you use the propose/accept model (better) for delegated actions? What kind of feedback will be exchanged about the actions? What should be done when changes are required on either side?

2. Make sure that you understand how delegated tasks work:

Who "owns" the task? Will your system automatically place an action item on the assignee's to do list? How will they become aware of the new action? Do they have to accept it to make it their own? What is the process for delegating a task to someone and what happens when you (or they) cancel or change a task? Can a delegated task be delegated to someone else? How will you track these delegated items?

3. Make sure that everyone else understands this as well:

Simply having good technology in place will not necessarily make a team more productive. Sometimes it even leads to just the opposite. It is important, therefore, to have procedures and protocols in place for putting technology to work. My clients have found that training and coaching can make a big difference in the productive benefits they receive from their technology investment.

4. Have everyone practice delegating/accepting/declining actions:

Practice, practice, practice. As I've said before, in order for delegated actions to work at all, there must be a high level of trust - not only among the people but in their support systems as well.

Are delegated tasks simply a bad idea?

I don't think so, but I do think they can be very dangerous if not used properly. When used correctly, by a group of people, who have agreed upon a specific task delegation protocol, delegated tasks can be a powerful productivity tool. Unfortunately, more often than not, this agreement is not in place, and for this group of people, computer delegated-tasks can quickly lead to a lack of trust in systems and turn into a digital nightmare.

As I show clients how to use technology in support of the GTD methodology I find that few are really ready or need to use delegated actions. I usually coach these people to avoid using computer delegated actions and to use traditional  means, such as e-mail, phone or even paper as a way of exchanging information about tasks without entering actions directly into someone else' system. This way, each party can internalize the next action and their commitment to it, placing it on their own list as appropriate.

Is your organization using computer-delegated tasks? If so, how has it worked (or not worked) out?

I would like to hear about your experience.

Please post a comment (or send me an email) and let me know what you think!

This blog post is a transcript from last week's podcast on delegated tasks management.

Note:  For purposes of this discussion, when I refer to delegated tasks, I am specifically referring to the ability to create a task (an action) in a digital system such as Outlook or Lotus Notes, and to assign it to another individual, so that it will automatically end up on their action list.  

(c) Eric Mack 2005

Tech Rag Tear Outs

Tuesday, March 1st, 2005
I just a had a delightful Skype call with Steve Holden.  Steve produces Tech  Rag Tear Outs - a daily 1-3 minute Podcast on the latest tech news.  It's an easy (and quick) way to keep up on developments in IT.  Thanks, Steve!

Sign up over at Tech News Radio.